History of Research at Waypoint
Research at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care has been marked by three distinct periods. Each transition in the organization allowed the research program and staff to grow and develop, shifting Waypoint from a rural asylum to an internationally known mental health centre and research institute.

Early Research Programs (1937-1978)

Outside of one article published in 1937, research was not a priority at Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (MHCP). This changed in 1960, when the Superintendant and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Dr. Barry A. Boyd, made the first steps towards establishing a research program at MHCP. He commissioned the Assistant Superintendant, Dr. C. Kenneth McKnight, and Dr. J. W. Hans Mohr from the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital (TPH), to study the patient demographics at Oak Ridge, and compare the results with other similar Ontario hospitals. Several years later, they followed up on this report with two others examining the relationship between mental illness and homicide. This period also saw the creation of the now controversial Social Therapy Unit (STU) and the Total Encounter Capsule in 1965 under the direction of Dr. Elliott Barker, and later Dr. Gary Maier. Following Maier’s departure from MHCP in 1976, and the official closing of the STU in 1978, a new era of research in Penetanguishene began.  

The Research Department (1975-2012)

The Research Department at MHCP was officially founded in 1975, with Dr. Vernon L. Quinsey as its first Director. Under Quinsey’s guidance, the department continued the tradition of research in forensics, producing numerous studies focusing on the assessment and treatment of aggressive behaviour, psychopathy, and sexual offending with the forensic patients in Oak Ridge. During this time, Quinsey and his team created the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) and the Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG), performed longitudinal studies of patient outcomes, introduced a new crisis intervention program, and created a token economy driven behaviour therapy program on the Active Treatment Unit (ATU). In 1988, Dr. Marnie E. Rice became the second Director of the Research Department, and continued the strong research programs developed under her predecessor, as well as exploring issues of risk communication and exploring theoretical issues around psychopathy and sexual deviance. In 1997 the members of the Research Department were presented with the Amethyst Award for Outstanding Achievement by Ontario Public Servants. In 2002, Rice retired from her role, and a year later she was honoured for her work by being inducted as a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada.  Following Rice’s retirement, Dr. Grant T. Harris became the third Director of the Research Department. Under his leadership, the strong forensic-focused research program continued to develop and expanded to include the assessment of domestic violence risk, and the development of a concurrent disorders program for voluntary, general psychiatric inpatients. Harris’ tenure as Director of the Research Department saw many organizational shifts, not the least of which being the divestment of MHCP from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Along with the divestment of the hospital and its re-branding as Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, a new research strategic plan was developed. It called for the creation of a larger Research and Academics Division, and the Research Department would become part of that larger whole.

The Research and Academics Division (2010-Present)

The Research and Academics Division was founded in 2010, with Dr. Howard E. Barbaree as the new Vice-President. The strategic plan stipulated the Division would consist of four research themes: Risk Factors and Assessment, Treatment and Transitions, Knowledge Translation, and Policy. In 2012, the Research Department was officially subsumed into the Division, with Harris remaining as the Director of Research in Risk Factors and Assessment. Shortly thereafter, the Waypoint Research Institute was launched, providing an organization under which the new strategic directions for research would be realized. The establishment of the four theme areas has ushered in a new era of expanded research focus at Waypoint.

Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit

The "Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit: A history of forensic mental health care in Penetanguishene, Ontario from 1933-2014", curated by Jennifer Bazar, PhD, was launched on June 4th, 2015. The site is accessible to all, and looks at the history of the Oak Ridge facility, including the research and treatments that was conducted there, the daily life of the staff and patients, and other aspects of the socio-political climate in which Oak Ridge was constructed and operated.


Bazar, J. L. (2015). Remembering Oak Ridge digital archive and exhibit: A history of forensic mental health in Penetanguishene, Ontario from 1933-2014. https://historyexhibit.waypointcentre.ca

Harris, G. T. & Rice, M. E. (2003). Actuarial assessment of risk among sex offenders. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 989, 198-210.

Hilton, N. Z., Harris, G. T., & Rice, M. E. (2010). Risk assessment for domestically violent men: Tools for criminal justice, offender intervention, and victim services. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Lynch, D. O. (1937). Some observations on the criminally insane with special reference to those charged with murder. Ontario Journal of Neuro-Psychiatry, 12, 39-52.

McKnight, C. K. & Mohr, J. W., Swadron, B. B. (1962). The mentally ill offender in the Oak Ridge hospital unit. Criminal Law Quarterly, 5, 248-258.

McKnight, C. K., Mohr, J. W., & Quinsey, R. E. (1966a). Mental illness and homicide. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 11(2), 91-98.

McKnight, C. K., Mohr, J. W., Quinsey, R. E., & Erochko, J. (1966b). Matricide and mental illness. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 11(2), 99-106.

Nielsen, R. F. (2006). Total encounters: The life and times of the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene. Penetanguishene, ON: Mental Health Centre Volunteer Association.

Quinsey, V. L., Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E. & Cormier, C. A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Quinsey, V. L., Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., & Cormier, C. A. (2006). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Rice, M. E., & Harris, G. T. (1993). Ontario's maximum security hospital at Penetanguishene: Past, present and future. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 16, 195-215.

Rice, M. E., Harris, G. T., Quinsey, V. L., & Varney, G. L. (1989). Violence in institutions: Understanding, prevention and control. Toronto, ON: Hans Huber.