New superjail unveiled: Public tours of Toronto South Detention Centre

An Oct. 4, 2013 Globe and Mail article is entitled (in its print version): “New jail designed with an eye on mental health.”

The online version is entitled: “New Toronto jail, with state of the art, eco-friendly features, set to open.”

Some time back, The Globe and Mail published an extensive series of articles regarding mental health including a July 26, 2008 article entitled ‘The mad and the bad.’ An introductory text for the latter article notes:

  • The mentally ill are often saddled with a double stigma, cycling through the justice system without getting treated for underlying disorders. As Dawn Walton reports, the prisons are full of people with mental problems, many of them so-called frequent fliers.

169 Horner Ave.

The super jail is at 169 Horner Ave. (there’s also an entrance at 160 Horner Ave.) in Mimico in South Etobicoke, north of Lake Shore Blvd. West and south of Evans Ave., between Kipling Ave. and Islington Ave.

The new jail is replacing the Toronto West Detention Centre and the Don Jail. It has space for 1,650 inmates – about 500 more than the two facilities it’s replacing, according to the Globe article (see above).

An Oct. 4, 2013 Globe and Mail video about the super jail can be accessed here.

An Oct. 1, 2013 Etobicoke Guardian article is entitled: “Corrections ministry hosts public tours of new Etobicoke superjail.” The article notes that “no cellular phones, cameras, or backpacks will be allowed in the facility; no photography will be permitted; and all persons entering the facility will be subject to a security screening.”

An Oct. 3, 2013 24 Hours Toronto article is entitled: “New super jail unveiled.” When you get to the 24 Hours link, do a search for “super jail” and you’ll find the article.

Mental health

An Oct. 3, 2013 CBC article is entitled: “New Toronto jail includes mental health, aboriginal programs.”

An Oct. 3, 2013 Torontoist article is entitled: “A Tour of the New Toronto South Detention Centre.” The subhead reads: “Toronto’s new super prison is impressive, but also a little disturbing.”

A Nov. 26, 2012 article (that is, from close to a year ago) in The Grid newspaper, entitled “The future of incarceration,” provides additional background.

If you continue north past the super jail along Horner Ave. travelling toward Evans Ave. and the Gardiner Expressway, you will drive by the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery. I drove by the cemetery for many years, and had not noticed it, before I learned of its existence.

The link in the previous sentence features information about the cemetery site, which is in turn part of the history of the Lakeshore Hospital Grounds along Lakeshore Blvd. West south of Kipling Ave.

Prisoner of war camp

Some recent articles about the super jail refer to the history of the property, which dates back to the early days of the Mimico Correctional Centre. In Along the Shore (2013), Jane Fairburn notes (pp. 376-377) that during the Second World War, a prisoner of war camp known as Internment Camp “M” was located on the grounds of what is now known as the Mimico Correctional Centre. The Home Guard would, in the recollection of long-time Lakeshore residents, walk the prisoners, many of whom were merchant marines and U-boat crewmen, every Wednesday down to Lake Ontario for a swim.

The historic Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery is a short ways north of the Toronto South Detention Centre. Located at the north-east corner of Horner Ave. and Evans Ave., the cemetery has an interesting history as a link just above this photo indicates. Jaan Pill photo

Architectural features

I’ve discussed the Toronto South Detention Centre in a previous post based on a City of Toronto briefing note. Another post mentions that the visitors centre looks spacious and airy.

The latter post adds that the use of translucent surfaces as a way to welcome the public is a characteristic of contemporary architecture, as I’ve noted in a series of posts related to the redevelopment of church buildings and other properties in Toronto.

The application of translucency as a feature of architectural design would, in the case of the adaptive reuse of historic church buildings, have to address parameters established by the Ontario Heritage Act and associated land-use regulations.

Image of the Toronto South Detention Centre from a Nov. 26, 2012 Grid article. The image cannot be enlarged by clicking on it. A larger version is available, however, at the above-noted Grid article, accessible from a link in the blog post you are now reading.

Medium-resolution or high-resolution photos of the visitors entrance to the new jail have not been easy to come by until recently. The links at the start of this post, however, do include photos of the visitors entrance and interior of the facility.

Some months ago, I stopped at the parking lot of the Toronto South Detention Centre with the aim of photographing the visitors centre from the outside of the building.

I was informed at once, by a security guard who drove up in a pickup truck, that such photos are not permitted.

The image above, from a Nov. 26, 2012 Grid article, gives an impression of the scale of the facility.

Low-resolution view of Toronto South Detention Centre from Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services website

Back stories

Many back stories are available regarding imprisonment as outlined for example at a previous blog post entitled The Drug Wars in America, 1940-1973 (Kathleen J. Frydl, 2013) and at a post on the history of film editing.

Among other things, the latter post highlights the strong appeal of stories dealing with activities that, on occasion, give rise to incarceration.


Imprisonment includes the phenomenon of false imprisonment, as an Oct. 4, 2013 CBC article indicates. An Oct. 7, 2013 Reuters report in the Toronto Star notes that incarceration can take many forms. An Oct. 7, 2013 Toronto Star article highlights the legacy of the Kingston Penitentiary.

An Oct. 9, 2013 Globe and Mail article highlights forms of behaviour that may give rise to incarceration in provincial jails.

An Oct. 11, 2013 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Kingston Pen: Developers dream up next chapter for notorious prison.” The opening paragraphs read:

  • The men set out on an overcast spring day in a Zodiac boat, navigating the choppy waters of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour as they ogled the waterfront and schemed the fortress’s future.
  • The magnitude of Kingston Penitentiary’s frontage confirmed, in their minds, that the property is ripe for a total re-imagination.

An Oct. 11, 2013 CBC Metro Morning story is concerned with the reintegration of young offenders, a topic also addressed in an Oct. 11, 2013 post at Humber News. The stories highlight the successful efforts of Redemption Reintegration Services to keep young offenders from reoffending.

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