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Optimism, more questions after Joliet prison tour

Brock A. Stein | 7/19/2017, 2:45 p.m.
Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk sounded an optimistic note after taking a tour of the former Collins Street Prison last week.

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk sounded an optimistic note after taking a tour of the former Collins Street Prison last week.

The mayor, council woman Jan Quillman and several city staff members received permission from the state’s department of corrections to tour the facilities and grounds last week in order to assess the condition for a possible purchase by the city. A plan presented in May by former City Manager Jim Hock and Joliet Area Historical Museum Director Greg Peerbolte would have the city convert the site in to a tourist attraction that would be open for tours to the public.

O’Dekirk said Tuesday that the Warden from Stateville Prison and the former warden for the Collins Street Prison accompanied the group on the tour.

“I think we saw everything that you would want to see on a tour,” he said. After seeing it, he said that there were “strong opinions” from those in attendance.

“There’s probably 20 good reasons to get involved, there’s 20 good reasons not to get involved,” he said.

Interim City Manager Martin Shanahan said his next step will be to reach out to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to get answers on a couple of issues before the council discusses the issue further and decides what the next step will be.

“Getting this thing up and running for tourism probably isn’t that far out of reach,” said O’Dekirk, “We did it in the bad condition it’s in and we were able to take a tour.”

City Council member Jan Quillman said that the tour was thorough and benefitted from having the former warden to show the group around.

“They took us everywhere we wanted to go,” she said.

Photo caption: Elected officials and city staff toured the Collins Street Prison in Joliet last week to assess its condition as a possible tourist attraction.