Once Canada’s longest operating detention center, the prison of Trois-Rivières is now open for tours led by former inmates as well as the chance to take part in a 1920’s style Canadian trial by jury, and even the opportunity for groups to spend one edifying yet oddly thrilling night in a 19th-century Québécois prison cell.
Designed by Quebec City architect François Baillairgé and officially opening in 1822, the facility was operational for more than 160 years. Originally designed to house only forty prisoners, the site was sometimes subject to overcrowding, and at various times housed up to 100 inmates. Following its closure in 1986 due to unhealthy conditions, the site languished in disuse and disrepair for a time, until being incorporated into the Musée Québécois de Culture Populaire (Quebec Museum of Popular Culture). Though the building has been renovated several times for safety reasons, little of the original design or layout has been altered.
Today tours of the facility are led by former inmates who share their first hand experiences with visitors giving the site a unique sense of what it must have been like while the prison was in operation. Groups can even spend the night in the jail for a fee where they will be treated just like an inmate; cleaning, eating, and sleeping just like a historic felon under the watchful eye of a temporary warden.