Screenshot from Feb. 15, 2017 Toronto Life article about Toronto South Detention Centre, highlighted at the post you are now reading

Screenshot from Feb. 15, 2017 Toronto Life article about Toronto South Detention Centre, highlighted at the post you are now reading

Feb. 15, 2017 Toronto Life article: “The $1-Billion Hellhole.” Previous posts share backstories about superjail.

A Feb. 15, 2017 Toronto Life article is entitled: “The $1-Billion Hellhole: When the Toronto South Detention Centre opened in 2014, it was supposed to herald a progressive era of incarceration. Instead, the superjail has become a house of horrors for the men inside, many of whom have yet to be convicted of anything.”

In a separate post, I will share some reflections concerning the elements of storytelling associated with the topic at hand. I found it fascinating, on re-reading previous blog posts (see below) about the superjail, that my major focus was on the architectural features – such as the sense of transparency and airiness – of the visitors centre. As is evident from the Feb. 15, 2017 Toronto Life article, architecture of a place is but one part of the features of any facility, anywhere in the world. The human dynamics associated with the facility determines the frame of reference, according to which we can assess the salience, or lack of salience, of the architectural design.

I found the Toronto Life article – which I first learned about on CBC Metro Morning on Feb. 16, 2017 – of much interest, as I had written several posts in previous years about the new Toronto South Detention Centre:

New superjail unveiled

Among the previous posts is one entitled:

New super jail unveiled: Public tours of Toronto South Detention Centre

An excerpt from the latter post reads:

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 additional excerpt from the above-noted blog post reads:

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.


Visitors centre looks spacious and airy

Another previous post reads:

The visitors centre at the Toronto South Detention Centre looks spacious and airy

An excerpt from the post reads:

A Nov. 26, 2012 article in The Grid notes that:

“The Visitors Centre looks spacious and airy through the spotless glass walls, and rows of grey benches are lined up in the lobby. The sliding front doors have the feel of a shopping-mall entrance. (This is a far cry from the Don, where visitors had to wait outside until security buzzed them into a small, cramped room.)”

The image below is from the Nov. 26, 2012 article in The Grid. The image cannot be enlarged. The visitors centre is back from where the bus (on a representation of Horner Avenue) is positioned in the image. You will note that the walls of the visitors centre, which you can see when you walk or drive by the detention centre, are translucent.

Image of South Toronto Detention Centre from Nov. 26, 2012 article in The Grid. The image cannot be enlarged by clicking on it.

The use of translucent surfaces as a way to welcome the public is a characteristic of contemporary architecture, as I have noted in a series of blog posts related to redevelopment of church buildings and other properties in Toronto.


Nov. 14, 2012 Briefing Note concerning the Toronto South Detention Centre

Another previous post, which I found it of interest to re-read today, is entitled:

Briefing Note (Nov. 14, 2012): Toronto South Detention Centre

An excerpt reads:

Briefing Note

Susan Shepherd, Manager
Toronto Drug Strategy Secretariat
Public Health
44 Victoria Street
18 Floor
Toronto, Ontario  M5C 1Y2
Tel:  416 338-0923
Fax: 416 338-1643

FOR Information: Toronto South Detention Centre

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is preparing to open the Toronto South Detention Centre on the site of the former Mimico Correctional Centre.   It is located at 160 Horner Avenue in south Etobicoke (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Councillor Mark Grimes).   The facility is scheduled to open in April 2013.

The Toronto South Detention Centre will be a ‘superjail’, replacing both the Toronto (Don) Jail and the Toronto West Detention Centre.  It will hold 1,650 men detained on remand (held while awaiting court hearings) in maximum security.  In addition, the Toronto Intermittent Centre is located onsite.  This 320 bed facility holds men serving weekend sentences, open as of December 2011.

In Ontario, 67% of people in provincial prisons are detained on remand, and this number is increasing.  Of this number, 47% will return to the community with no further correctional supervision[1].  A recent John Howard Society of Toronto study found that one in five GTA prisoners were homeless when they entered custody, and one in three would be homeless at discharge[2].   The average length of stay in custody for prisoners on remand is 34 days[3].

Specific Information about the facility:


  • The Toronto South Detention Centre will hold men from across the GTA; no women will be held there.
  • Information provided to the community by the facility Director, Rose Buhagiar[4]:
  • Each week, it is expected that 210 men will be admitted, and 180 will be released.
  • There will be a mental health assessment unit.
  • Programs will be available at an introductory or orientation level.  (Most people on remand in Ontario do not have the option of participating in programs unless they are offered onsite by a community agency.)  Topics will include anger management, life skills, substance use, and ‘anti-criminal thinking’.
  • There will be multi-faith chaplains and worship space.
  • There will be an Aboriginal-specific program space and sweat lodge ceremony space.
  • Men will be able to work toward high school credits or work on literacy or numeracy skills.
  • Visits will be through video booths only (no face-to-face visits except in special circumstances).
  • Discharge planning begins at admission and worked on over the period of incarceration ‘for those who require’ support.  Ms. Buhagiar stated that discharge planning will happen with the help of ‘discharge planning partners’ including John Howard Society, CMHA, and Salvation Army.

Proposed Reintegration Centre:

The John Howard Society of Toronto is leading a group of community participants and agencies who are working to develop a Reintegration Centre close to the Toronto South Detention Centre site.  The proposed Reintegration Centre would ‘triage’ men as they leave the jail.  Staff would offer one-stop help to address basic needs, find shelter, and provide links to a range of services in the community.  As the focus will be triage only, there will not be a drop-in centre, nor would men return to attend appointments here.

John Howard Society of Toronto has received a grant from the Urban Land Institute to support development of this facility, including links to professionals with expertise in urban planning, real estate, architecture and design.  Several agencies have expressed interest in either co-locating in the proposed facility, or attending the site regularly to offer service.   United Way staff have been attending planning meetings although have not offered any funding to date.

The ideal site, as perceived by this group, is a small vacant parcel of land adjacent to the Toronto South Detention Centre site, owned by the City of Toronto, and under lease to another party.  They are exploring how this might be sub-leased.  Other sites in the area are also being considered.

Health Issues and Key Points:

There are several ongoing issues from a health perspective with the provincial correctional system.  Some of these were highlighted in the Ontario Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2011-2012[5], such as lack of access to appropriate health care and medications.  The Toronto Drug Strategy (TDS) notes the need for access to harm reduction and treatment service options, as well as improved discharge planning.  There is little to indicate that the Toronto South Detention Centre will function differently than other institutions.  Ms. Buhagiar’s statement about discharge planning indicates a continued reliance on community services that are already overwhelmed, and often have difficulty getting into provincial prisons to deliver services.  The proposed Reintegration Centre could provide critical services and referrals when men leave custody.

Rates of Hepatitis C and HIV infection among Ontario prisoners are an important public health problem.  A study[6] of remanded prisoners found that 16% of males, 30% of females, and 55% of injection drug users were HCV positive.  Both male and female prisoners in this study had a 2% HIV infection rate.  Study authors noted that these infection rates are much higher than in the general population.  They also estimated that 9,208 HCV-positive adults and 1,079 HIV-positive adults were admitted to Ontario remand facilities over the 2003-4 year.

Consultation with the area community has reportedly been minimal.  A town hall meeting was held in April 2012, attended by 125 area residents.  The facility Director, Rose Buhagiar, spoke at the LAMP Community Health Centre AGM on September 20, 2012.   The concerns raised by local residents at this meeting were about community safety both when men are released, and in the event of an escape from custody.

Toronto Public Health Involvement:

The Urban Issues team is concerned about risks to the social determinants of health caused by the lack of services for both those already infected with HIV/HCV and for those at risk while incarcerated.  Men leaving the institution may have complex needs related to poverty, health and housing.  The TDS Criminal Justice Working Group is supporting John Howard in planning the proposed Reintegration Centre.   Both Urban Issues and TDS staff are engaged in this process at present.  Presumably, TPH TB nurses and CDC will also be involved with the new jail.   Urban Issues/TDS staff will communicate with the TB and other CDC managers to ensure they are aware of the issues.

Prepared by:

Jayne Caldwell, Toronto Drug Strategy Secretariat, Healthy Communities
Julia Barnett, Urban Issues Team, Healthy Communities
Contact for further information:  Jayne Caldwell or Julia Barnett
Date:  November 14, 2012


The attribute of transparency (in architectural design)

The following two posts say much the same thing. I posted the same material more than once, in order to bring attention to the topics at hand.

Many case studies document the adaptive resuse of historically significant buildings

Many case studies are available documenting the adaptive resuse of historically significant buildings

At the above-noted post I note that: “The attribute of transparency is also evident in recently built structures such as the visitors centre at the Toronto South Detention Centre.

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