Letter to the Editor: Collins Street Prison

Dear Editor:

The Joliet Correctional Center on Collins Street has been closed since 2002 and there are still plenty of visitors. In 2009 information kiosks were installed in the parking lot detailing a sample of the nearly 150 year history of the jail. May 29, 2017 there was fire inside the prison and also in 2013. The fires, vandalism, and weather over time have severely damaged the prison. The 20-acre property has been featured in films, television, music, and books. The Joliet Area Historical Museum sees the value in Joliet Correctional Center and wants to offer tours. Two concerns are safety and the cost to fix everything. Is the Joliet Correctional Center worth investing in? Can it truly become a tourist destination? Should the state of severe neglect, vandalism, and recent fires be reason enough to demolish it?

The City of Joliet is the 3rd largest city in Illinois and is a tourist destination. The Splash Station Waterpark, Slammers Baseball Team, shopping district on Route 30, two casinos, four golf courses, CPX Sports, Chicagoland Speedway, great restaurants, and the downtown events solidify Joliet’s status as the place to be south of Chicago. I would like to add one more addition to this impressive list…the Joliet Correctional Center Museum. Those that live in Joliet, nearby, and across the country would like more of an experience than hanging out in the parking lot reading a couple of signs!

The state of the Joliet Correctional Center is in bad shape. It is going to take a lot of money to fix it. Is it truly worth it? I believe so! The best solution is for a city, county, state, federal, and private partnership to restore our notorious prison. I have no doubt if the prison was available as a museum Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm it would pay for itself. A simple $15 admission with merchandise and food options inside with a photo opportunity inside a cell would surely satisfy those with a deep curiosity. After-hours and special events can be had like musical concerts called Jailhouse Rock. The weeks leading up to Halloween it can be a haunted house. The jail can welcome thousands of students annually for field trips. We can market the prison to film and television companies to come make their next production in Joliet on the condition they make a small contribution to fixing the property. The Joliet Correctional Center Museum means more visitors Joliet which means more money spent in Joliet. Those that travel farther distances especially will no doubt look to see what other fun stuff Joliet has to offer. This is a direct way to spur economic development on the eastside of Joliet. The empty land nearby on Woodruff businesses might be willing to make a large investment and develop the land creating jobs because of the museum. I feel the City of Joliet should take a good, hard look at creating a mutually beneficial partnership with the township, county, state, federal government, and private businesses in making the Joliet Correctional Center a profitable, scary, fun destination for all to enjoy!

Angel Guzman

Joliet

 

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