How to Reduce Stress Construction Costs in Designing Correctional and Detention Environments
Gross, James F., Suarez, Manuel J., Corrections Today
People go on vacations because they are stressed out. They get divorced because they are stressed out. Road rage occurs because drivers and passengers are stressed out. Heart attacks occur from being stressed out.
Stress is so prevalent in American society that from a linguistic standpoint, the word stress is now used as a noun, verb, adverb and adjective. Stress is everywhere, yet very little is done to reduce it because its roots or the reasons for its occurrence are difficult to identify. The only thing truly known about stress is that it significantly affects people and usually not in a positive manner.
Reducing stress within correctional environments has become one of the most widely discussed issues in the field during the past few years. Ever since incarceration has been employed as a punitive method for crime deterrence, it has been a stressful experience both for inmates and staff whose job it is to maintain the security, supervision, safety and welfare of their charges.
Reducing stress levels in correctional environments is beneficial to all. If stress levels are reduced, the inmate population is more likely to respond positively to the correctional environment and, therefore, better, living conditions will be realized. By default, it creates a more manageable environment for staff and inmates.
From an administrative perspective, this issue is critical, as it has become increasingly difficult for correctional and detention facilities to recruit and retain employees in an industry for which starting wages for line officers pale in comparison with the manufacturing or service industries. Most agencies rely on promoting corrections as a career and signing bonuses as major selling points along with the benefits packages available to the public sector. However, high employee turnover rates are still a concern. This is a direct result of stress.
While this article is solely based on observations and experience, and not academic research, the results are valid and many of these concepts have been executed in facilities across the United States. There is no arguing that correctional officers have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. It is amazing that after so many years there is not more discussion about how to reduce stress. There are a number of stress-reduction elements that can be incorporated into the design and operations of a facility, including sufficient day room space, natural light, clean air, noise control, exercise and stimulus, proper sanitation, contrasting environments and proactive management (direct supervision).
Sufficient Day Room Space
Space is very expensive. During the past 20 years, numerous alternatives with regard to the design of inmate housing have generated alternative layouts, most of them triangular and some with unrecognizable geometrical shapes. But all are designed to reduce the size of a day room to comply with the American Correctional Association standard of 35 square feet per inmate.
However, the reality is that a large day room with adjacent recreation space is the most effective management tool available to correctional officers to reduce stress. Inmates crowded into small day rooms create a stressful environment. Typically, day rooms are bustling with activity for at least 16 hours per day. Inmates use the phone, visit with family and friends, watch television, attend programs, shower and recreate in day rooms. Yet most day rooms are not large enough or designed to accommodate multiple concurrent activities without one activity compromising others. Although most are familiar with the laboratory experiments that place rodents in a crowded environment, producing stress followed by chaos, most day rooms in correctional and detention facilities replicate this undesirable situation.
The solution is simple: Build larger square or rectangular day rooms with a specific area assigned for each activity. …