Past and current employees from Kent Institution are invited to an anniversary gathering this October in Chilliwack. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Past and current employees from Kent Institution are invited to an anniversary gathering this October in Chilliwack. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Kent prison employees invited to anniversary gathering

The event will take place in Chilliwack on Oct. 5

Have you worked at Kent Institution since it opened 40 years ago? Harrison resident, author and former correctional manager Neil MacLean is hoping you’ll come to an anniversary gathering this October.

“My experiences were everybody’s experiences,” MacLean said. Now a retired correctional officer, MacLean has written the book Serving Life 25: One Guard’s Story about his experiences working in B.C.’s prison system.

“We’ve all gone through the murders and the violence … We’ve all been through it and it was just sort of our common thread.”

RELATED: Prison book promises insider’s look

On Oct. 5, MacLean is hoping that both current and past employees from Kent Institution will come to reminisce.

“Just bringing people together, telling old stories,” is the goal of the event, he said. “A bunch of guards talking about days gone by.”

The October gathering, which will be taking place in Chilliwack, is set to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Kent Institution.

Built in 1979 for $19 million to replace the B.C. Penitentiary in New Westminster, Agassiz’s Kent Institution was designed to be the vanguard of change for prisons across the country.

“Luxurious isn’t the word — I’m groping for an alternative to that — but these are pretty fancy surroundings and I don’t think we’ll build another one like this under the present conditions,” 1979 solicitor-general Allan Lawrence said in a Vancouver Sun article from the gala opening.

“This is not to say we want to go back to the grey walls and iron bars and nothing else, by any means — those days are long gone. But this one is pretty fancy, in my book anyway.”

The article went on to say that the maximum security prison resembled a country club “with its bright yellow and russet interior trimmings, its brick exterior and carefully landscaped courtyard, (and) its spacious exercise yard.” But you couldn’t get away from its true purpose as a prison.

RELATED: Kent Institution prison guard assaulted by inmate

According to MacLean, the first riot happened that year, with subsequent ones in 1981, 1991 and a 2003 riot which caused over half a million in damage.

The institution has also been host to a number of ingenious escapes by inmates, including Canada’s first helicopter escape in 1990 and another where an inmate packed himself in a box to be shipped out.

“The helicopter escape was the biggest one,” MacLean said. “That made international headlines.”

Though the correctional officers had to deal with this and much more in their day to day jobs, MacLean said the staff were also what made his time working at the prison enjoyable. And on Oct. 5, he’s hoping some of those staff will be joining him for the anniversary celebration.

In the first week MacLean had released the invitation to the event, he had around 50 people say they were interested in attending. Current and past employees who are interested in attending should contact MacLean at oc4you@shaw.ca for details.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack is expected to be among the province’s hottest real estate markets in 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Chilliwack housing market projected to be among B.C.’s hottest in 2021

B.C. Real Estate Association projects Chilliwack and District to grow by 17.1 per cent

Eva Pucci Couture in this file shot from May 29, 2019, when she came to Chilliwack asking for the public’s help in locating her missing son, Kristofer Shawn Couture. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Missing man’s mom still hopeful, 2 years after his car was found abandoned at Chilliwack trail

‘I wish someone would come forward with insight into your whereabouts,’ pleads mom of missing man

Abbotsford tattoo artist Tanya Loewen has entered the Inked cover girl contest.
Abbotsford mother, tattoo artist enters Inked cover girl contest

Tanya Loewen, tattoo artist at Van Bree Tattoo, hoping to win big in magazine contest

District of Kent farmers brought truckloads of used plastic to the Schwichtenburg farm Oct. 26, 2018, for pickup by Kent Agricultural Plastics Recycling, a grassroots, farmer-initiated organization that collects and distributes used plastics for recycling. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)
Agassiz’s agricultural plastics program heading to the dump, unless province steps in

Kent Agricultural Plastics Recycling has nowhere to go, hopes B.C. will create a recycling program

Adam Suleman announced his intention to run in the Chilliwack school board byelection on Dec. 21, 2020. The byelection is set for Feb. 13, 2021. (Submitted)
VIDEO: Chilliwack byelection candidate focuses on mental health, bullying, COVID-19 safety

Adam Suleman: ‘If we address mental health we can address so many other issues at the same time’

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
2 years after his riderless horse was found, police believe Merritt cowboy was killed

Two years after he went missing, Ben Tyner’s family makes video plea for information

A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Trudeau teases stricter travel measures; Canadians flying to U.S. now need COVID test

Prime minister says measures need to not hurt imports and essential trade

The shirts sell for $45, with 30 per cent of proceeds from each sale going to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. (Madame Premier/Sarah Elder-Chamanara)
Canadian company launches ‘hysterical’ T-Shirt to combat health officials’ use of word

A partnership with Tamara Taggart will see women broadcast the word on a T-shirt or tote bag

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
16% boom predicted for B.C. real estate sales in 2021: experts

Along with sales, the average price of homes is also predicted to rise, by nearly 8 percent

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer in West Kootenay in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

Most Read