Painting Correctional Institutions Green: How Using Green Technology Can Reduce Correctional Institution Cost

By Wells, Doris | Corrections Today, July-August 2014 | Go to article overview

Painting Correctional Institutions Green: How Using Green Technology Can Reduce Correctional Institution Cost


Wells, Doris, Corrections Today


With prison costs steadily rising and state budgets being cut, correctional institutions are seeking ways to reduce costs. Based on an NIJ-funded research analysis through its Corrections Technology Center of Excellence (one of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers) the Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook (1) shows that many energy-efficient devices and procedures (green technologies and systems) can reduce correctional institutions' costs. As a result, many government and commercial agencies, including correctional institutions, are installing and implementing energy-efficient devices as cost-saving measures. Moreover, through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Initiative, the government can reward agencies that acquire this status with cost-saving rebates and other incentives for using energy-efficient products.

The Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook provides correctional administrators with a comprehensive and informative discussion of how green technologies can reduce their operating costs. It reviews green technologies' rapidly increasing role as a cost-effective measure in correctional institutions, and presents the challenges and issues to consider during acquisition and implementation (each technology must be carefully evaluated for appropriateness and affordability).

Guiding Principles and Focus Areas

Public safety, staff security and economic stability are the basic guiding principles behind the guidebook's review of and guidance on using green technology. It discusses the importance of forming a "green team" and describes six basic areas where using green technologies can produce significant cost savings. It also indicates that a secondary cost-saving aspect of implementing green technology is the employment opportunity it can create for inmates through training. Teaching inmates how to install and use green technology can keep money in-house and equip them with skills for future employment upon their release from prison. Such employment could help them avoid recidivism, further contributing to correctional costs.

Whether driven by an official mandate or the desire to help reduce costs at an institution, the guidebook's authors found it critical for green technology advocates to first get support (concept and resources) from senior management. Next, advocates should create a green team -- a group of correctional staff, including administrators, engineers, architects, project managers, supervisors, etc.--who still retain their regular responsibilities, but have been authorized to lead or explore green initiatives. In addition to having a strong commitment from senior management, institutions should have formal mechanisms in place to select, implement and evaluate the impact of green technologies. As part of the evaluation, institutions should strongly consider developing an inmate vocational training component as part of their program. Such an initiative can provide the labor necessary to manufacture, install and maintain green technologies, and also transfer a marketable skill for inmates who are released or who are on parole and seeking employment.

Six Basic Cost-Saving Areas

The guidebook's authors selected lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; plug-in appliances; materials flow; water; and energy as the six areas where correctional institutions can obtain the greatest cost savings from using green technology.

Lighting. Many institutions can save money by using more cost-efficient lighting technologies, such as advanced fluorescent (including induction) lights that are capable of efficiency levels 40 percent better than their earlier fluorescent counterparts. Some models function for up to 100,000 hours. Other cost-efficient lighting technologies include:

* Daylighting (windows, skylights and SunTubes): Techniques used to allow natural light into the institution and reduce electrical consumption; and

* Movement and occupancy sensors: Automatic sensors that can be installed to detect occupancy of an area through infrared, sound or other technology, then automatically turn lights on or off, saving significant amounts of electricity. …

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