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Ontario’s newest state-of-the-art jail takes shape in Windsor

Posted: Jun 25/14

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record


June 24, 2014


It was a long time coming for area residents, the correctional system, prison staff and, indeed, inmates.  But the $240-million, 200,000-square-foot South West Detention Centre (SWDC) - the province’s newest state-of-the-art correctional facility - is now open for business and is, yes, taking prisoners.

The LEED Silver designed building - awarded to Toronto-based Forum Social Infrastructure in an Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) contract with Infrastructure Ontario for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, whereby the developer assumes most key risks including financial - took two years to build.  It was completed last August but after a transition period, including staff training, only recently have the inmate transfers started from the old Windsor and Sarnia jails to the new building, located alongside Highway 401 on Windsor’s outskirts.

A KMPG LLP analysis found that the AFP model on this project saved 4.9 per cent or $14.3 million compared to the traditional financial model.

Forum Social Infrastructure will be responsible for 30 years facility management and lifecycle maintenance, such as making sure critical features like flooring are in good shape before turnover to the province.

Construction under general contractor Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. began in July 2011 - employing 150 construction workers at peak - on a building that has set a number of new benchmarks for a prison, which will house inmates on remand or for sentences of less than two years.

The facility holds 315 inmates, of whom 32 beds are set aside for women, replacing in Windsor what had been an almost 100-year-old badly crowded jail in the heart of the city.

Besides construction specs such as using low emission, volatile organic compound materials in adhesives and paints, a PVC roof to minimize the heat island, and diverting more than 50 per cent of construction debris from landfill, the building is designed for maximum security but in ways that create flexibility in prisoner flow and housing, minimizing a drab institutional environment, and enhancing rehabilitation.

“It’s trying to get a balance between a normative environment - an environment that doesn’t echo, is more conducive to rehabilitation and reduces inmate stress - but still utilizes very durable materials,” NORR Ltd. principal architect Jonathan Hughes said.

There are the obvious durable materials with “beefy” security door frames made of high gauge rolled steel, along with steel cell doors, and heavy duty sheet good roll high linoleum.

The H-block layout allows as many as six housing units or pods with 32 cells each that include a central day room, off of which are classrooms and meeting rooms.  The day room has fixed in place eight foot in diameter hard plastic surface tables with stools cantilevered that swing out where inmates can sit to eat meals. Surfaces have chess or checker boards for leisure activities.

“The inmates have their bedroom areas for more private space and they are free to come into the day room where they have access to televisions, program room, outdoor exercise space and where the food is delivered,” Hughes said.

Each cell has two bunks in the male wing and in the much smaller female wing, side by side beds.  As well, female cells have moveable furniture, ceramic toilets and washbasins while male cells have stainless steel fixtures.

Separate housing units allow staff to sort inmates by severity of crime, personalities, repeat offenders, or high profile cases where a prisoner may be in personal danger.  They can then be housed with similar inmates or in a segregation area for protection.  Cell windows in precast units are narrow eight inch wide slits and vary in vertical and horizontal patterns.

The building’s entrance is wide and open with an atrium creating a public building lobby, the architect said.  Gone is the institutional feel, state its designers.