|The History of the Mimico
NOTICE: The history of the Mimico Correctional Centre (and other
Ontario Correctional facilities is now being maintained on Wikipedia.
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The Victoria Industrial School for Boys opened on
May 16 in the town of Mimico, Ontario (just west of Toronto) headed by
Superintendent W.J. Hendrie. The school (essentially a juvenile
reformatory) emphasized child rescue, reform through character
development, moral and academic education, and vocational training.
The opening ceremonies were officiated by Lord Lansdowne, the Governor
General of Canada. The first boy was registered at the school on June
At its peak, the school consisted of the following:
Six 'Cottages' (3 or 4 story Victorian houses)
Farm with greenhouses
School with assembly hall
Gymnasium with indoor pool
The school received 'students',
aged under 10 through 14 years, through the Toronto School Board Truancy
Department. Funding was provided by the province, municipality, and
parental-fees (contributed "in proportion to their means"). The daily
routine at the school consisted of 4.5 hours of work and 3.5 hours of
The typical daily routine was as follows:
06:30 Rise and Wash
07:00 Morning Prayers
19:00 Cottage (Winter)
20:45 Bed (Winter)
19:00 Playground (Summer)
20:00 Cottage (Summer)
21:00 Bed (Summer)
The school was based on "the family plan" where boys
lived in 'cottages' with a matron, who acted as mother, and a guard, who
acted as father. The guards were actually skilled tradesmen who also
supervised the boys at work. Some of the trades taught to the boys
included carpentry, tailoring, printing, mechanics, and husbandry. The
boys also performed work in the kitchen, laundry, and assisted the
matrons with the housekeeping. The following is an excerpt from
Superintendent Hendrie's first annual report:
"It seemed a curious undertaking to erect a school
for these waifs without bar or cell or hardly a whip, but the lads
appear to have dropped into the groove at once, there having been but
three attempts to escape. This school differs from a reformatory in that
it is in no sense a prison, and the boys are not sent down as criminals,
neither are they turned loose upon the world at the expiration of a
fixed term, but are apprenticed to some trusty farmer or mechanic...
Poor 'bags of bones', found in a deplorable state, have acquired the
home feeling and habits of industry and obedience in the kindly
atmosphere of the School."
The Ontario Government found clay and shale
deposits on land it owned in Mimico providing a natural source of
building materials for the Government's own needs, it was quickly
exploited, and The 'Toronto Brick and Tile Company' was built. This
brickyard was a satellite camp run by the Toronto Central Prison
(built in 1874), an adult-male institution located at King and
Strachan in Parkdale. The plant could produce over two million
bricks a year for government use.
The Toronto Central Prison closed and the
Ontario Reformatory-Guelph assumed responsibility for the brickyard.
The Victoria Industrial School became the
Mimico Reform School.
|The site of the Toronto Central Prison brickyard
became a reformatory.|
The Mimico Reform School was closed.
Following the closing of Penetang (another reform school), the
school had become a dumping ground for more "hardened boys", and
with the increase in population, the rehabilitative success
decreased sharply. In December of 1934, the Ontario public secretary
ordered it closed amid sensational public accusations that the
school was a "barbarous and antiquated" institution. Remaining
students were transferred to the Bowmanville Training School. The
Reform School and adjacent property were merged with 'out-camp' for
the Ontario Reformatory-Guelph. The Toronto Brick & Tile Company
became the Ontario Brick & Tile Company and redesignated as the
The Ontario Reformatory-Mimico became
autonomous from the Guelph reformatory.
Site used as a POW camp
(known as "Camp 22") for German prisoners, many of whom were
Merchant-marines and U-boat crewmen. Mimico was just one of many
such camps spread across Ontario and Canada. The following is a
partial list of POW & internment camps in Ontario (some of which
were converted correctional facilities, logging camps and
Camp H Red Rock
Camp 10 Chatham - 325 prisoners
Gravenhurst (Sanitarium) - 400 prisoners (officers)
Camp 21 Espanola (Factory)
Camp 23 Montieth
Camp 30 Bowmanville
Camp 31 Kingston
(Fort Henry) - 600 prisoners
Camp 100 Neys
Camp 101 Angler - 650 prisoners
The prisoners at Mimico
were housed in huts and fed in the main dormitory building.
The Province of Ontario formed the Department
of Reform Institutions overseeing about 10 institutions.
The Alex G. Brown Memorial
Clinic opened on site in the old 'Beverly Jones Cottage' (left over
from the Victoria Industrial School). The clinic provided treatment
for drug and alcohol addiction.
Reformatory-Mimico occupied 200 acres. On the property were 51 dairy
cows, 362 pigs and poultry.
Buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4 were
built (construction began 1948).
were connected with canopied walkways that extended south to the
dining-hall/old administration building. Steam-pipes ran under the
walkways from the boiler house to heat the four new buildings and as
a result, the walkways were almost always clear of ice and snow in
Building 2, as an annex of the Alex G. Brown
Clinic, was used to house 'sexual deviates', screened at the
New boiler-house built (now used by
maintenance as work-shops).
New administration building added.
160 acres was sold to the Borough of
Etobicoke and rezoned for industrial use.
(January) The Department of
Reform Institutions became the Department of Correctional Services
and provincial government took over control of the more than 50
County and District Jails.
The treatment of sex offenders was moved from the
Alex G. Brown Clinic to the Ontario Hospital.
Industry at Mimico showed an annual output of
275,000 bricks; 12 tons of tile; 4829 slippers; 700 boot/shoe
repairs; 662 picnic tables; 449 rolls of snow fence; as well as a
number of fireplace grills and flag-poles.
inmate capacity was 350 in the reformatory, 108 in the Alex G. Brown
Clinic and 30 at Camp Hillsdale (a minimum-security forestry camp).
Ontario Brick and Tile Company was closed
following pressure from outside labour unions that argued that the
plant was taking jobs from their members.
Horner Avenue was extended through to Evans
Department of Correctional Services became
the Ministry of Correctional Services.
For the first time, females were allowed to work
as Correctional Officers (previously known as Matrons and restricted
to working with female inmates or juvenile offenders).
Ontario Reformatory-Mimico became the Mimico Correctional Centre.
The Alex G. Brown Clinic was
moved to the Ontario Correctional Institute.
part of the property that was formally the Victoria Industrial
School for Boys was sold to the Borough of Etobicoke (currently the
site of former Toronto Police 21 Division and Ourland Park).
Mimico Correctional Centre was 'closed' with
plans to move all staff and inmates to the Maplehurst Correctional
Centre. The institution was cleared of inmates and only a handful of
staff remained when it was decided that Mimico should be
The following is an excerpt from an article in
the Correctional Update. The article, written in February 1975,
reported on the impending closure of Mimico:
"One man who remembers some of the by-gone days
at Mimico is Harry Woollcombe who, at 78, works as a delivery man
for a flower shop. He has also been a taxi driver since leaving the
Ministry in 1956 after 35 years service, 29 of them at Mimico. The
first six years he worked at Burwash where his annual salary was
$1,125 for an 11-hour day shift and 13 hours on night duty, with no
In 1927, he went to Mimico in response to an
urgent request from Superintendent Jim Elliott, a friend who needed
a records clerk and wanted Harry for the job. He was delighted with
his starting salary of $1,400 at Mimico. "I thought it was great to
be making that much money," he recalls.
Even though he didn't particularly like the job -
"I wasn't cut out to be a clerk" - Harry stuck with it for several
years before transferring to the custodial staff.
When the Second World War began, Harry joined a
Toronto militia unit so he could stay at Mimico, which was being
turned into an internment camp for German prisoners. He was assigned
to a special train unit that travelled around the country and picked
up prisoners for Mimico.
"The German prisoners
would question us extensively about the towns we passed and our
destination. They recorded everything in notebooks, I suspect, so
they could later make maps."
After the war, Harry was promoted to Sergeant at
Mimico and was paid $1,800. One of his most vivid memories is of a
dramatic and fatal escape attempt. Two inmates overpowered several
staff members and got possession of a set of keys.
The Day Sergeant, who lived in a nearby room
where guns were also stored, heard the scuffle and entered the hall
carrying a pistol. He ordered the men to stop, but when he was
attacked, he fired, killing one of them.
Harry also recalls being involved in a riot at
the institution one Christmas Eve when some inmate horseplay
resulted in chairs and tables being thrown.
the senior officer on duty, I went into the rest area, pulled out a
pad and began to record the names of all inmates I recognized. Soon
the fighting stopped and the inmates turned to watch me. I simply
turned and left; there was no more trouble."
The death knell for Mimico as a large farming
operation was sounded in 1967 when 160 acres were sold to the
Borough of Etobicoke for an industrial park. And the rest of the
property is expected to go for similar use when the Ministry moves
out this summer.
The dining hall
(formerly the main dormitory building prior to 1948) behind the
administration building was torn down and replaced with a dining
hall in the basement of Building 2.
Buildings 5 and 6 were built but remained
Buildings 5 and 6 were opened and used to
house I.T.A. and intermittent inmates.
Mimico Correctional Centre was reclassified
from minimum-security to medium-security and the perimeter fencing
increased from ten feet to twenty-one feet.
||"Payphones" were installed in the inmate
dormitories allowing inmates to place collect-calls.|
||Building 2 was converted to a 136-bed,
medium-security remand unit.|
Segregation cells (4) in the basement of
Building 1 were closed and replaced with a ten-cell unit at the rear
of the building.
The rank of Corporal (CO3) was
||The south guard-tower overlooking the exercise
yard was torn down.|
The inmate dining hall and
kitchen in the basement of Building 2 were closed and replaced with
the newly completed 320-seat dining hall.
program was moved completely out of the institution to C.R.C.'s
Ministry of Correctional
Services became the Ministry of the Solicitor General and
Five new cells were opened
in the basement of Building 1 in place of the 'Immigration Dorm'
(formerly the medical isolation dorm).
Mimico Detention Centre was
opened for maximum-security inmates and Building 2 was closed for
renovations. Mimico Correctional Centre became the Mimico
Cable television was
installed for the inmates.
Rank of Sergeant was
A new Admitting and Discharge area was
opened in the basement of Building 2.
The I.T.A. program was moved
back into Mimico after the Ministry closed all C.R.C.'s.
(February) Correctional Officers and support staff went on strike (5
Renovations and staff training began for the
conversion of the detention centre (Buildings 2 and 7) into the
Toronto Youth Assessment Centre (TYAC).
(January) The Toronto Youth
Assessment Centre opened as a separate institution. Mimico
Correctional Complex was once again the Mimico Correctional Centre.
The Admitting and Discharge in the basement of Unit #4 was
(November) New uniforms were
introduced. Crested light-blue shirts and dark-blue pants replaced
the plain white shirts and grey pants for correctional officers.
Lieutenants' uniforms were replaced with crested white shirts and
dark-blue pants. The green blazers and raincoats were discontinued
(June) The Ministry of the Solicitor General
and Correctional Services was divided again into two separate
ministries; The Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry
of Correctional Services.
||Despite numerous warnings from other
jurisdictions that tried similar experiments, and public outcry, the
ministry opened the province’s first private prison in
Penetanguishine. The five-year contract to run the Central North
Correctional Centre (one of three new “Superjails”) was awarded to
Management Training Corporation, an American company. If successful,
all correctional facilities in Ontario would face privatization.|
||The Ministry of the Solicitor General and the
Ministry of Correctional Services merged again to become the
Ministry of Public Safety and Security.|
(January) All but a few regular inmates were
transferred out to other correctional centres and Mimico became an
Intermittent Inmate facility. Intermittent inmates serve their
sentences in instalments, typically on weekends and remain at large
in the community the remainder of the time. Initially, the facility
was to become a branch of the Toronto Jail and renamed the Toronto
Jail Intermittent Facility, but the staff at Mimico rallied
successfully to maintain autonomy.
Ministry of Public Safety and Security was renamed to the Ministry
of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
The Toronto Youth Assessment Centre, located
in the former Mimico Detention Centre, was shut down amidst
controversy surrounding the conditions of the facility.
The Ontario Government issued this press release:
“March 8, 2004
McGuinty Government Closing Toronto Youth Assessment Centre
Queen's Park — The McGuinty government today announced plans to
close the Toronto Youth Assessment Centre by a target date of June
"I've visited the facility and it is totally
unsuitable for youth in conflict with the law," said Monte Kwinter,
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. "Since then,
I have made it a priority to close the centre. We are now following
through on that commitment."
During the past few
months, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
has taken a number of steps to reduce the number of youth at the
facility, as part of its commitment to closing the centre.
Approximately 50 youth are currently at the secure-detention centre.
They will be relocated to other youth facilities that are
appropriate to their program needs, as an interim measure.
"This government will continue to work to ensure that youth in the
province's custody are treated in a humane, safe and secure way,"
Kwinter added. "By making the decision to close the centre, we are
bringing real, positive change to Ontario's youth."
"Youth in conflict with the law must be held accountable for their
actions and be dealt with firmly, with a rehabilitative focus," said
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Children's Services.
Since 1998, the centre, which is located at the Mimico Correctional
Centre in Etobicoke, has been used as a temporary location to hold
youth, age 16 or 17 at the time of their offence, either in
detention or serving custodial sentences. The McGuinty government is
committed to meaningful rehabilitation for youth in conflict with
the law, to help build strong, safe and vital communities in
(November) Following five years of scandal
and controversy the privatization of the Central North Correctional
Centre in Penatanguishine was declared a failure and the facility
was returned to the public sector.
The Mimico Correctional
Centre remains an intermittent facility. During the last couple of
years several closure dates have been given and subsequently
extended. In 2004, Mimico was given a "final" closure date of March
31, 2005. In February 2005 this date was extended to June as the
government continued to try to solve the question of what to do with
the intermittent inmates. At the start of 2006 the closure date was
pushed back, once again, to September 2006 and it was announced that
a new facility (The Toronto South Detention Centre) would be built
in the next 3 to 5 years.
Several buildings in the
industrial area have been declared heritage properties:
In December 2006, it was announced that
the Mimico Correctional Centre would remain open for the foreseeable
future, meaning that the facility could still be closed at some
point in the future. It is widely believed that the new facility
will be built and the old buildings torn down, which amounts to yet
another metamorphosis and renaming as has happened so often in the
|Note: There is today, still a
remaining piece of the Toronto Central Prison. It was once the
prison chapel and can be found at the site of new condominiums being
built on Strachan Avenue, south of King Street. The two story chapel
is all that remained of the main building after it was torn down
following the closure in 1915. |