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Joliet officials want to offer prison tours

JOLIET – Community officials in Joliet are considering a proposal to operate tours of the historic Joliet Correctional Center.

Known as the Joliet Prison, the facility was shuttered by the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2002 and has been empty ever since. It's used by film crews as well as police and military agencies for special training and was featured in the opening scenes of the movie "The Blues Brothers."

The 127-acre complex has about a dozen buildings and was built in the mid-1800s.

Joliet city officials and the Joliet Area Historical Museum want to operate bus and walking tours that would be led by former prison guards, according to a report by The Joliet Herald-News.

The tour would take visitors to a cell from 1853, a solitary confinement building, guard posts and a guard turret. No one would be allowed in the buildings.

"Joliet Prison is the No. 1 one thing we get asked about," said Greg Peerbolte, the museum's executive director.

Officials say the tours would cost $40 a person, which would be used to pay for mowing, tour guide expenses, bus transportation, insurance, marketing and preservation work.

Peerbolte says he'd like tours to start in August if organizers get an OK from the state.

Tom Shaer, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said the state would need to review technical aspects of the proposal.

"Anything we can do to help the city, we're happy to do it," he said. "They've always been a good neighbor to us. We try and be a good neighbor to them."

Joliet authorities say the city would have to spend about $6,000 initially for repairs and access to a guard area for the disabled. But other eventual repairs would be far more costly. Fixing a leaky roof is expected to cost $1.3 million.

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."

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