Magazine article Corrections Forum

21st Century Trends: What's Next for the Corrections Industry?

Magazine article Corrections Forum

21st Century Trends: What's Next for the Corrections Industry?

Article excerpt

After years of steady growth, the nation's prison population is stabilizing, and with it, the most active capital construction programs the corrections industry has seen in years. As of 2001, most state prisons and local jail have eased crowde conditions, thanks to a decade of prison construc tion, falling crime rates and demographi trends. With many major projects occupied and statewide prison building programs completed, the corrections industry and many design and constructio professionals - are looking for the next wave of challenges and opportunities.

According to the New York Times, through the middle of 2000, the number of state prisoners grew middle only 1.5 percent, the lowest annual increase in 29 years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In California and New York, the inmate population decreased, while the numbers in Texas grew by only one half of one percent. Nine other states alos reported a decline.

In recent years, many states imposed linger sentences an limited parole, thus keeping more violent offenders behind bars longer. The falling crime rate was not immediately reflected in teh prison populattion. States also increased the use of alternative sentencing and diversionary programs for drug users that further reduced the prison population.

Together, these factors will impact the industry for years to come by creating other needs and directions for corrections professionals. In the future, we can expect to see a shift in priorities from building new, large prisons to addressing targeted programs and facilities serving focused populations and services. The following are some of the trends emerging nationwide:

BUILDING BOOM IS OVER

Construction of large state prisons is no longer in the pipeline, as many state systems have caught up with projected needs. Most architectural firms nationwide report a significant decline of correctional work in 2001. In California, New York, Florida and Texas, where correctional design and construction activity was brisk during the last decade, the need for additional adult male prison beds has leveled off. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is the only major agency planning additional prisons, with several in the works at various stages.

"California is built out, there are no major building programs out West or nationwide that we see, except at the federal level," says Jim Mueller, AIA, Executive Director of KMD Justice, in San Francisco.

"Florida has little new prison work, partly because the governor is seeking a balanced budget to reduce spending, especially in unpopular public programs, such as corrections," said Dave Voda, AIA, Project Manager with HLM Design's Orlando, Florida office.

"Most states are redirecting funds from corrections to education. Inmate population increases are flat, and most agencies are doing infills, building system and technology upgrades and special needs projects. Owners are more adept at integrating technology and control elements for greater staff efficiency," says Allen L. Patrick, FAIA, Director of Criminal Justice Facilities, URS Corp., Columbus, Ohio.

"Growing metropolitan areas and medium sized cities are adding more jail beds, but no prison work is on the horizon. Video visiting is everywhere and we're seeing more juvenile projects all over the country," says John Geyer, AIA, president of Justice Solutions, in San Antonio, Texas.

"We're not seeing a lot of big state and local projects. In the Midwest, county jails in Minnesota and Wisconsin, once an active market, are now completed," said Richard McCarthy, AIA, principal of Klein McCarthy in Minneapolis.

RIGHT-SIZING POPULATIONS

New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYS DOCS) Commissioner Glenn S. Goord, anticipates a nine percent reduction or "right-sizing" - in the inmate population between 2000 and 2002, with most reductions among nonviolent offenders. (All staff reductions will occur through attrition. …

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