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Jail closure

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Given the extensive media coverage across Canada and in the northern U.S., the question now is whether the Fort Frances Jail’s spot on the map in the wake of last week’s standoff between inmates and police will be short-lived.

A local group had been lobbying to keep the facility open after the province announced last fall that it was slated for closure in 2004. Now, the effects of last week’s standoff remain to be seen.

“Honestly, another call from the media,” noted Mayor Glenn Witherspoon from Witherspoon’s One Stop. “I’ve been bombarded. I’ve had over 20 calls.

“Do I think there could be any effect on it? Well, it could work both ways,” noted the mayor. “Certainly there could be an impact. Right now, they’ve moved all the prisoners to other locations while they investigate and beef up security.”

The mayor and several other residents and community leaders have been pushing to keep 94-year-old jail open here, or have it replaced.

But while the incident may not bode well for the old facility, the standoff may help the cause when it comes to getting a new jail here.

“The people coming through here, the Canada Customs location, and the charges there could [help],” noted Mayor Witherspoon.

If it is closed, all Fort Frances inmates will be shipped to the expanded Thunder Bay Correctional Centre.

The jail is closed for at least a week as OPP and corrections officers investigate last week’s standoff and hostage-taking.

Meanwhile, the mayor is not concerned about the cost of the 16-hour standoff because, besides some overtime for the OPP, the costs fall on the Ministry of Correctional Services.

“It’s the province’s jail. It won’t affect our budget at all,” he remarked.

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