The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

September 18, 2013

No arrests in prison arson

JOLIET — Joliet authorities are still searching for whoever set fire to a shuttered state prison that was once featured in the opening scenes of “The Blues Brothers” movie.

Investigators haven’t made any arrests in connection with the July 25 blaze that destroyed a warehouse at the Joliet Correctional Center, The Joliet Herald-News reported.

The limestone complex was built in the 1850s but closed in 2002 and has been empty ever since.

although the property is still used by TV and film crews as well as various police departments for training.

After the fire neighbors complained that the aging facility was failing into disrepair and a dangerous eyesore that was dragging down property values.

Since then, neighbors say work has been done maintaining the property as workers cleared brush and weeds.

“It is looking a lot better from the outside,” said Amy Sanchez, of the Collins Street Neighborhood Council.

Meanwhile, authorities say they’re working to increase security.

The Illinois Department of Corrections is adding additional patrols at the site. And Joliet’s police and fire department now have keys to access locked buildings. City police also check the site once a day.

City leaders have proposed turning the prison into a tourist attraction, but a 2012 assessment by a consultant said the prison was deteriorating at a rate that might render it unsalvageable in several years. The analysis said fixing the problems would cost almost $4 million, before the cost of redeveloping the property into a tourist attraction.

City Manager Thomas Thanas said the changes are a step in the right direction, but that more work still needs to be done.

“Joliet remains interested in seeing the building get into the right hands,” Thanas said. “The problem we have is there’s a substantial cost in regards to stabilizing the building.”

In addition to being featured in the opening scenes of the 1980 movie, the Joliet Correctional Center has also appeared on the TV show “Prison Break.” The most famous limestone building wasn’t damaged.

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