Magazine article Corrections Forum

Architectural Angles

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Architectural Angles

Article excerpt

Yet subtle shifts have been occurring that are making a dramatic difference in lowering construction and design costs, as well as long-term operating costs. Some of these include changes in delivery methods, cell construction techniques and the use of updated technology. The following are trends offered by architects/designers with national firms specializing in justice projects.

While September 11 had a codifying effect on design of justice communications type buildings, it did not appear to affect corrections facility design. In fact, redundancy is having a big influence on justice projects, according to architectural firm DMJM. A recent 911 Communications Center pictured on the front cover of this issue is one of two identical buildings built by the firm that handle emergency communications for the L.A. area. These provide absolute back-up, says Susan Gary, VP Justice Programs with the L.A.-based firm. "Since 9/11, redundancy has a new meaning," she adds.

The reason the impact of the terrorist attacks hasn't been as great for correctional facilities is because jails and prisons have been "designed to [handle] security issues from day one," Gary points out. These security features include set backs, special HVAC systems and ways to minimize inmate congregation. It's probably safe to say correctional facilities are not a natural target in regard to terrorist attacks. Those facilities that hold high profile criminals simply use tightened security procedures, vigorous visitor regulations and contain seg areas and secure cells.

How then is design changing? Correctional design ' seeks to provide spatial layouts that can reduce staff, while maintaining adequate levels of security and safety. Direct supervision is becoming more widespread, according to Dave Michaels, a consultant with Cannon Design, an architectural firm specializing in justice design, headquartered in Grand Island, New York. "A corrections officer or guard becomes more of a counselor," he explains. A recent 1,400-bed addition his firm completed is designed with a direct supervision operating philosophy. Obviously a single staff person to supervise 64 beds in a dorm-style area is less expensive compared with supervising 16 to 48 cells in ' a single cell housing block, he says. Most of these facilities also have "seg" housing on each floor to control population that needs more supervision.

Another terrific way to save staff operating costs is video visitation, says Michaels. The state of Nevada has provided the legal means to install such systems, and with great success. The Clark County Detention Facility in Las Vegas, which was planned by Cannon Design, has 48 public kiosks in the lobby and 6-8 terminals in each housing area. "The facility has eliminated all the infrastructure"such as secure corridors typically necessary for visi- ' tors. It has no separate circulation for visitors; visitors are kept outside of security lines. As a result, "virtually all contraband has been eliminated," he states.

Video visitation works well in Type 1 jails, like the L.A. County Jail, where detainees are held for up to 96 hours during prearraignment. This 100-bed facility contains a core running vertically up the multi-rise building so that population can be discretely moved to video terminals for interviews with detectives without others observing them.

The video visitation process greatly reduces movement of staff and inmates, says Michaels. Using the traditional method requires at ' minimum two staff per visit; this can be done by a single staff person for many visitors. It provides expediency and privacy.

Another cost-cutting method is Design-Build delivery. "We are seeing more and more DesignBuild rather than Design BidBuild projects," DMJM's Gary states. "We saw it starting five or six years ago," she continues. The example of the federal BOP seemed to help it catch on faster. BOP had designed big projects, in excess of $100 million, and was experiencing frequent claims and disputes with contractors, which dragged out in court. …

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