Antigonish Jail closes January 2015

The new 196-bed Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Priestville, Pictou County, near New Glasgow and Thorburn, is set to open next month and will replace both the Amherst jail and the 17-bed Antigonish Correctional Facility.

“This week, we began transferring offenders,” said Tim Carroll, superintendent of the new Pictou County jail.

“By the end of the week, those two facilities will be decommissioned or closed, at the very least.”

The Antigonish Correctional Facility was one of Canada’s longest family run jails.  Gerard Gillis and his family have many memories.  His parents and seven of his siblings had the unique experience of living under the same roof with people spending time behind bars.  The Gillis family ran the jail from 1952 to 1982.  Gillis, the oldest male sibling, says his parents worked hard– especially his mother.
Gerard says his parents kept a close eye on some of the inmates– but overall they didn’t fear for their safety.  In fact, he says they spent a lot of time together.

The Antigonish Jailhouse built in 1944 is not a heritage building, but a town lock-up existed since 1939 at the rear of the present day Court House. This building housed both the jail and the Municipal building and was destroyed by fire in Dec 1, 1943.   Excerpts from “Fifty Years a Town” published in the Casket Nov 30 1939 offer details of the first jail.

At a meeting held two days later William Landry was appointed policeman and license inspector at a salary of $400 a year, and a grant of $25 was given to purchase a uniform.  Joseph A. Chisholm was appointed stipendiary and recorder, and James Jocelyn was made keeper of the town lock-up.

…The clerk made a hurried trip to Dartmouth to see how the books of an incorporated town should be kept, taking with him the instructions of the council to buy a set of books in Halifax, together with two pair of handcuffs.

An excerpt from the minutes of Municipal Council reported on the fire of Jan 25, 1944.

”We had the misfortune of losing our Municipal Building by fire on Dec 1.  This is at this time a serious loss and we shall have to give our consideration to the errection of a new building in the future.”   A new jail was rebuilt at its current spot.

A second article appears in the Casket Dec 9 1943 and speaks of the fire in ’43.

…Housed in the building proper and in the two-storey addition were the county jail and the quarters of the jailor and his family.  Mr MacIsaac saved some of his furniture, but smoke prevented a complete job of salvage.  The MacIsaac family took shelter with neighbours after the fire….

…what the Town and County will do for a lock up at present has not been determined Correctional Facility closed Jan 2015

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