North Bay Jail Heritage Site Plaque
The first known lockup in North Bay was a rudimentary log structure built at the corner of Main and Wyld Streets. Two years later, the province constructed a court house and lockup on Bye, now Plouffe, Street which evolved into a detention centre for the vast judicial district of Nipissing eventually housing 30 cells. The first Town Hall at Ferguson and Worthington had some holding cells as well as housing town administration, fire and police departments.
As the community grew, the need for a dedicated jail building became evident and in September 1929 construction began on this Trout Lake Road site, at the time an undeveloped area on the outskirts of the city.
While the new building was labeled "escape proof," the jail saw a number of "walkaways" into the bush that surrounded the structure and in 1942 an inmate absconded by going out through the coal chute and into the woods. The most publicized escape from the North Bay Jail was that of Donald Kelly. In August, 1975, during a preliminary hearing on charges related to the 1969 murders of Carol and Jack MacWilliams, inmate Kelly overpowered a guard in the visitors' room and escaped out a back door through which groceries were being delivered. After stealing a rifle and ammunition from a truck in the parking lot, he ran to Trout Lake Road, hijacked a vehicle and for a month eluded one of the largest manhunts in Ontario's history. On September 2nd, after a brief shootout, Constables Carson and Ted Gianaini apprehended the wounded fugitive.
By the twenty-first century, the Ontario government operated jails as well as larger regional detention centres. North Bay was one of nine jails and the third largest behind only Sudbury and Thunder Bay. It has played a key and evolving role in the justice system in North Bay and Northeastern Ontario.