Bordeaux jail commemorates 100 years, offers insight into Montreal history
The scene of hangings and spectacular escapes, Bordeaux jail received its first inmates exactly 100 years ago Monday.
To commemorate the centennial, the jail opened its doors for a special tour of the building steeped in history.
Before it even opened, the jail made headlines for it’s $2.5 million price tag, an astronomical amount in 1912.
Now officially called the Montreal Detention Centre, the star-shaped building was meant to be state of the art, and even today, two of its wings remain unchanged.
“It has been the witness of the evolution of criminology in Quebec, it has been the witness of the change of mind, the change of belief,” explained Chantale Bouchard of the Bordeaux Jail Centennial Committeee.
In 1912, the tiny cells caused a public outcry because they each contained a flushing toilet and electricity.
“It was before (World War I), and people didn't have these commodities, so it was considered outrageous,” said Bouchard. “For prisoners, it was considered luxury.”
Some inmates disagreed however. In all, 90 inmates have escaped the jail, including Lucien Rivard, who linked garden hoses used to freeze an outdoor skating rink to climb the walls.
Not everyone who entered the jail made it out – 82 people, including three women, were hanged from a balcony. The last hanging took place in 1960.
Today, Bordeaux is a temporary home to 1,400 inmates, about half of which are serving less than two-year sentences, the others awaiting trial.
Life has changed quite a bit over the century the jail has been opened.
“With the evolution of thinking, of criminology, now social re-insertion is at the heart of the correctional services mission,” said Bouchard. “Bordeaux has been the privileged witness of all this evolution.”