It certainly isn’t time to celebrate just yet, but word efforts are still underway behind the scenes to keep the Fort Frances Jail open is encouraging. Better yet is the fact it seems to be a district lobbying effort.
According to Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and Emo Reeve Russ Fortier, the minister of correctional services is at least open to the possibility of building a new jail here to replace the old one instead of shipping off local prisoners to a “mega-jail” in Thunder Bay.
Sure, the chances of it being approved are slim. Still, slim is better than none. And the odds of landing it are better with a concerted lobbying effort than just giving up and accepting the ministry’s original decision to close the jail here by 2004.
It’s a fight we should all support for several reasons, starting with the very real impact losing so many well-paying jobs will have the district’s economy. Given our falling population here, especially among children, we simply can’t afford to lose any more people.
There’s another fear, too, that without a jail here, will closing down the courthouse be far behind? More jobs—and families—lost.
Saving the jail is an uphill battle. Getting a solid business plan together by September will be a challenge. And in the end, after all that time and effort (and no doubt some money), there’s no guarantee of changing the minister’s mind.
But with district leaders working together, coupled with the support of union members and local citizens through letters and phone calls, we have a chance—whether it’s getting a new jail, or landing a young offenders’ facility in the district.
Let’s not go down quietly. It’s a fight we cannot afford to lose.