Historial Pictures of Riverdale

This is a picture of the Don Jail taken from Munro Street.

This is a drawing of the House of Refuge that was located on the West side of Broadview between Langley and Riverdale.

Information about Riverdale Park
Riverdale Library


The Escape of Frederick Merrill from the Don Jail 1989

In 1989 Frederick Merrill escaped from the Don Jail. The following is an excerpt from the Ontario Legislature transcipts at the time. Mr Merrill was at large for at least a week and found living in the Ravine.


Mr Runciman: My question is to the Minister of Correctional Services. The people of this province are more than a little concerned about the escape of Frederick Merrill from the Don Jail last Wednesday. As we know, Merrill is one of the most dangerous criminals in North America, with a long history of sexual assaults, beatings and murder. He has also escaped from a number of American prisons over the years and made two previous escape attempts from the Don Jail.

Can the minister tell the people of Ontario why a man with this kind of background was able to escape from the Don Jail in Toronto?

Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to thank the member for his question. Obviously, there is great concern in our ministry and among Ontarians throughout the province about this escape that happened last week. Immediately upon that escape, our day shift people stayed and contributed to the search in the valley. Also, we sent an investigator to the scene immediately, and I am awaiting his report.

Mr Runciman: As usual, we do not get much of an answer. The people of Ontario are wondering why security was so sloppy that this dangerous and violent man, with a long history of jailbreaks and jailbreak attempts, was able to escape from a correctional facility in Ontario.

Can the minister tell us if he is satisfied with the level of security that was present when Mr Merrill escaped, and if not, can he tell the House what specific steps have been taken to ensure that this kind of escape will not happen again?

Hon Mr Ramsey: I would like to give a little background to the member with regard to his question. As the member will know, this is the first escape from this facility in more than 30 years. It is one of the most secure facilities in Ontario. The member should also know there was a one-on-one supervisory situation there, and our initial investigation shows that this was an extraordinary escape, as the member knows, from a roof five storeys high, through barbed wire and razor wire.

This particular exercise area on the roof of the Don Jail, five storeys high, qualified to all the criteria of our maximum-security areas that, as I have said before, has not seen an escape in 30 years.

Don Jail

Don Jail

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The current Don Jail building

The current Don Jail building

Canadian Prisons
Don Jail
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Status: Operational
Classification: Short Term (Remand)
Capacity: 550
Opened: 1858 (current facility completed in 1865 with later additions)
Managed by: Province of Ontario

The Toronto Jail (also known by the nickname The Don, or in the media as the The Don Jail for clarity) is a provincial jail for remanded offenders in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the Riverdale neighbourhood on Gerrard Street East near its intersection with Broadview Avenue. It gets its nickname for the nearby Don River. A likely reason for the popular use of the “Don” nickname is that this jail was the fourth to be known as the Toronto Jail.

The Toronto Jail was built between 1862 and 1865 (predating Canadian Confederation by two years) with most of the current jail facilities being built in the 1950s, although a jail has stood on the site since 1858. Designed by architect William Thomas in 1852, its distinctive façade in the Italianate style with a pedimented central pavilion and vermiculated columns flanking the main entrance portico is one of the architectural treasures of the city and one of very few pre-Confederation (1867) structures that remains intact in Toronto. For example, it is over thirty years older than Toronto’s Romanesque Old City Hall.

However, owing to its sturdy construction, its interior has gone largely unchanged in the last fifty years as renovations would be both difficult and expensive, even in an empty facility. As such, it is considered badly outdated as a prison facility. Originally constructed to house 275 prisoners, its “rated capacity” is now 550, and its average prisoner load is about 620. In addition, as a “short-term” jail, it was not designed with adequate visitor facilities, exercise areas, telephones, lawyer meeting rooms, showers, or even laundry facilities. However, the average stay is 30-90 days, and many prisoners are kept there for months. Many attempts have been made to close it as politicians, international human rights organizations, prisoner advocate groups and even prison guards have decried its overcrowding and inadequate facilities. However, despite several attempts to close the facility, it remains open primarily to deal with the large number of remand prisoners awaiting trial. It is often overburdened by a large number of arrested persons awaiting arraignment.

The original Don Jail building, now out of service

The original Don Jail building, now out of service

Courts have taken judicial notice of the deplorable conditions in “The Don” and judge Richard Schneider set a precedent of crediting persons serving time in the facility awaiting trial with three days for every day spent in the facility. The judge noted that the prison no longer met the minimum standards set by the United Nations. These conditions were also brought to light by a controversial article in the Toronto Star in which a reporter was smuggled into the prison by a sympathetic Member of Provincial Parliament, Dave Levac, MPP. Mr. Levac faced censure for bringing in the reporter, although as an MPP he had a right to free access to the facility.

It should be noted that the prison is only for remand prisoners, and it does not hold any persons actually found guilty of an offence.

The jail was the subject of the first ever television news report on the CBC Television English network when the Boyd Gang, a notorious group of bank robbers, broke out of the facility for the second time. The news anchor was future Bonanza star, Lorne Greene.

Before capital punishment was abolished in Canada, the Don was the site of a number of hangings. Starting with the execution of John Boyd in January 1908, hangings at the Don took place in an indoor chamber, which was a converted washroom, at the northeast corner of the old building. Previously, condemned men had been hanged on an outdoor scaffold in the jail yard. The indoor facility was seen as an improvement because outdoor executions were quasi-public – at the hanging of Fred Lee Rice in 1905, crowds had lined surrounding rooftops to see something of the spectacle – and because the condemned didn’t have to walk as far.

The best-known Canadian hangmen, such as John Radclive, Arthur Ellis and Camille Blanchard, hanged men at the Don at various times. The Toronto-based hangman Samuel Edwards, who worked during the Depression, carried out his first execution at the Don, in July, 1931.

26 men were hanged on the Don’s indoor gallows. The jail saw three double hangings: Roy Hotrum and William McFadden in August, 1921; Leonard Jackson and Steven Suchan in December, 1952; Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas on 11 December 1962. Turpin and Lucas had each been convicted in separate murder cases, and their executions were Canada’s last.

The jail is currently owned by Bridgepoint Health, which are retrofitting it to become part of the hospital. During the renovations human remains were found as part of an archaelogical assesment.

For the movie Cocktail (1988), starring Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown, the rotunda in the old section of the jail was redressed as an upscale New York nightclub.

Last Escape 1989

Murder – Simpson and Broadview

Three Articles below

Mid-afternoon shooting leaves man dead in east-end

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A man in his 20s is dead after being shot to death Sunday afternoon in Toronto’s east-end.

Homicide detectives are on the scene at Simpson Avenue, near Broadview Avenue and Dundas Street, where the shooting happened just after 4 p.m.

Paramedics rushed to the scene and tried to revive the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police are releasing very few details on the murder but are asking for help from witnesses who might have seen the shooting occur.

The area has been closed off as a result of the police investigation. Investigators are sweeping the area for a male suspect.


Man fatally shot in brazen daylight attack

TORONTO — A 21-year-old man became Toronto’s 70th homicide victim yesterday after he was gunned down in broad daylight on a quiet residential street, the apparent target of a planned ambush by several suspects who remain at large.

The brazen attack near Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street took place at 4 p.m., just as the unidentified victim was leaving the Don Jail, where he had been visiting an inmate. He was returning to his parked car a short distance away when he was approached by several men, Inspector Bernadette Button of Toronto Police told reporters.

“A foot chase ensued and several shots were fired,” she said. The victim collapsed in the driveway between two houses on Simpson Avenue.

Homicide detectives remained tight-lipped last night as a citywide search got under way for the suspects, who escaped on foot. The police would not divulge any information about the victim or the suspects, or what prompted the attack that has left residents in shock.

By late yesterday afternoon, the leafy street had been transformed into a busy crime scene. Yellow police tape cordoned off houses near where the victim had been shot, seven orange pylons covered shell casings from bullets strewn on the street and police cars and ambulances lined the street. Police escorted bewildered-looking congregants emerging from services at St. John’s Presbyterian Church on the corner to their cars.

Insp. Button said police were appealing for help from witnesses who might have seen the shooting. Dozens of police officers were combing through the streets and interviewing neighbours.

They were also poring over tape from a surveillance camera at a nearby fish store and had blocked off most of the streets near Broadview and Gerrard as part of the manhunt.

Craig Jenkins, a resident of Simpson Avenue, was one of the first people on the scene after the shooting. He said in an interview that he was at home watching a movie when his doorbell rang. He had heard a series of loud bangs but never imagined it was from a hail of bullets. When he opened the door, he found his next-door neighbour frantically yelling, “Someone’s been shot by my house. I need you to call 911.”

When Mr. Jenkins ran outside, he saw the man “slumped up against the back fence,” he said.

Paramedics arrived shortly after he called 911, but they could not revive the man. Mr. Jenkins said the man was unresponsive and bleeding from his ear. He had a bullet wound in his chest.

Residents of the area said they were shocked that their neighbourhood now resembled others in the city where gunfire is all too common. While gun crime overall has dropped significantly over the past two years in Toronto, reflective in part of several vigorous anti-gang sweeps, gun homicides have swung upward once again. This comes at a time when crime generally – and murder in particular – has been slowly but steadily declining across Canada.

Constance, a long-time resident who declined to give her last name, was just returning from church when she saw the police cars in her neighbourhood. “This is very sad,” she said. “It’s very strange for this neighbourhood.”

Don Jail shooting victim in Creba raids

Oct 22, 2007 11:30 AM

Staff Reporter
The man shot to death outside the Toronto’s Don Jail on Sunday was one of 25 people swept up in the Jane Creba murder investigation last year.

Eric Boateng, 21, had left the facility at Broadview Ave. and Gerrard St.E. on Sunday just before 4 p.m. and was returning to his car when he was confronted outside by a man and shot. He collapsed on a nearby quiet residential street and died.

Boateng pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in Old City Hall provincial court on Aug. 7 and was sentenced to the equivalent of 28 months in jail.

He was released from custody at that time for time served, plus put on probation for a year.

He was originally charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms. Boateng and 24 others were arrested on June 13, 2006, in a series of police raids after the fatal shooting of Jane Creba. They were not among the seven others charged in the Dec. 26, 2005 death of the Grade 10 Riverdale Collegiate student.

Witnesses described the gunman as black, in his 20s, medium build, between 5-foot-8 and 6 feet, wearing a black bomber-style jacket that was puffy and shiny, dark baggy pants, and a dark hat. He was last seen running south on Hamilton St., south of Gerrard St.E.

A small, dark SUV was also seen in the area at the time of the shooting, though police don’t know if it was involved in the incident.

Boateng is Toronto’s 70th homicide victim of 2007, one more than the 69 people killed in the city last year.