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The old Joliet prison is reopening very soon – for museum tours

In this April 21, 2018 photo, the remains of an old fence pile up on the prison yard during the first cleanup day at the former Collins Street prison in Joliet, Ill. The correctional facility, which opened in 1858, was shuttered in 2002. | Eric Ginnard/Herald-News via AP

JOLIET, Ill. — The Joliet Area Historical Museum is budgeting for a profit from tours and other income expected from the opening of the old Joliet prison.

The correctional facility, which opened in 1858, was shuttered in 2002. Now the former Collins Street prison’s grand opening on Aug. 25 is getting unexpected international attention.

“There’s a French publication through the ministry of tourism that already is recommending the prison,” museum Executive Director Greg Peerbolte said. “We have no idea how that got there.”

Peerbolte made the comment during a meeting of the City Council prison committee that recommended $50,000 as a contribution to the museum’s start-up efforts. The council will vote on the contribution July 17.

The money would fund expenses for starting tours, which should begin this month or August.

Peerbolte presented a budget that forecasts net profits from tour operations of about $4,000 in September and about $7,000 in October.

Unused money from the city’s $50,000 would go to a fund for building restorations at the prison.

The French magazine recommendation may be catching on.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk mentioned to the committee his own encounters at the prison with visitors from Canada, Poland and France.

“Last Wednesday I was there for five minutes,” he said, “and there was a group from France – a motorcycle group that came there.”