No plans: Chief still waiting to hear how Sarnia’s Courthouse will be prepared for 2014 closure

Sarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson says the provincial agency in charge of preparing the court house for additional prisoners when the Sarnia jail closes isn’t expected to have a plan together until the fall.

The provincial government announced the closure of the Sarnia Jail nearly two years ago. Prisoners are to be housed at a new regional jail in Windsor when the Sarnia facility closes in 2014. The community has been fighting the move, but as recently as two weeks ago, the Minister of Corrections made it clear it was not about to change its mind on the issue. Sarnia’s Save The Jail Committee is still hoping to reverse the decision. It meets tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss strategy.

Sarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson

Sarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson

But Nelson says the province seems to be behind on planning for the move. The chief told the police services board recently he has heard nothing about the transportation of prisoners to and from Windsor. The province has promised to cover the cost of this.

Nelson says officers have investigated and found that nowhere in the province are prisoners being transported for more than two hours, as will be the case in Sarnia.

And he says the Ontario Realty Corporation, which is in charge of the renovations to the courthouse to accommodate the new reality, still doesn’t have blueprints on the renovations. Nelson says there are plans for “at least 14 cells” accommodations he says were needed even without the closure of the jail next door. The Sarnia Jail had been a holding area for the court but won’t be used once the building is closed.

“So far they have come up with a plan,” says Nelson. “They don’t even know what they need.” And Nelson says it is unclear how long it will take to build the cells. “Who knows? It’s quite a big project.”

And the chief says a special, secure, loading and unloading area will also have to be built. He hasn’t seen plans for that either.

Nelson isn’t expecting to see any concrete plans until at least the fall.

– Heather Wright