Windsor Jail to open its doors for public tours

The Windsor Jail is no longer used to house inmates. Media got a tour Tuesday so take a look inside.

Members of the media got a sneak peek of the jail Monday and CBC and Radio-Canada reporters were there

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      For the first time in its history, the Windsor Jail will be opened to the public.

      Members of the media toured the 89-year-old jail Tuesday. The public will get its chance Nov. 14-16 for $10 a tour.

      Jail Specs

      Built: 1925

      Age: 89 years

      Original Capacity: 101 beds

      Current Capacity: 197 beds

      Staffing: 119 staff, including 72 correctional officers

      Admissions: 20,000 inmates over 20 years

      Size: 35,000 square feet

      Grouds: One half acre

      The Windsor Jail was built in 1925, after fire destroyed the Essex County Jail. The Windsor Jail is one of Ontario’s oldest correctional facilities.

      The jail ceased operations on Aug. 25, 2014 when the last of its inmates were transferred to the new, state-of-the-art South West Detention Centre, also in Windsor.

      Steven Small, assistant deputy minister for Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services said all security features, such as locks and doors, will now be removed as part of the decommissioning.

      “We have to make sure the facility is safe,” Small said.

      The future of the jail is not known. A jail in Coburg is of similar age and is now a bed and breakfast. Others are used for storage and archives, Small said. The province retains ownership of some while others have been sold off.

      “People have talked about a museum. That will come later, after Infrastructure Ontario negotiates the repurposing of the building,” Small said.

      City of Windsor CAO Helga Reidel said the city has expressed interest in acquiring the building.

      “We are awaiting word from them on what the next steps are in the acquisition process,” Reidel said. “I want to make it clear, though, that this does not bind the city to make the purchase. If a negotiation results in a favourable transfer, that’s what would happen.”

      Council to decide on future use

      Council would then decide on the next move. Reidel said the city anticipates the building would need repair and upgrades.

      Reidel said funding is not built into any capital budget but does “anticipate it will be quite costly for a building of that age and size.”

      “The older the jail is, the more the upkeep,” Small said.

      Reidel figures more ideas for use of the building will come forward if the city does acquire the jail.

      Terrence Kennedy, of the Sandwich Towne History Group, wants to see the jail turned into a museum.

      “The community needs these buildings as our new museum … so we can attract more tourists into the city,” Kennedy said. “Too many things are being knocked down without any consultation.”

      Reidel said another possibility is that the city buys the building and flips it to a private investor.

      Heritage site

      The jail is a registered heritage property.

      “That fact will come into play when negotiating future use of this facility,” Small said.

      “The gallows is an interesting feature in this facility,” Small said. “Certainly some of the older facilities have that feature.”

      The last hanging took place in 1943.

      Tickets for the tours on Nov. 14-16 must be purchased in advance.

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