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Corrections Architecture: New Facilities and Renovations
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 09/21/2020

Prison e

Hello to all, our topic this month is corrections architecture with emphasis on new prison and jail construction. Along with this topic are some possible barriers, and lack of resources. COVID- 19 has certainly had an effect on new construction projects. This also includes many resource allocations of funds being diverted and/or frozen. Many new projects, including construction expansions and updates are on hold in many states. This includes de-fund the police concerns.

We are aware of crime statistics being down, resulting in lower number of offenders being incarcerated. Yet, some prisons and jails are pursuing new construction projects. Now there are reasons for this; many of our jails and prisons are outdated, grants for new construction and expansions available, our inmate population has more special needs offenders (geriatrics, number of offenders with drug/alcohol related issues, many states are processing more offenders with mental health issues, and other treatment concerns), health and safety concerns and some states are renting jail beds and looking at alternatives to incarceration. We know for some offenders it is cost effective to supervise them in the community rather than incarceration. Some prisons and jails are very old and outdated. Also, we must consider any court rulings pertaining to these same/similar issues and concerns. We must acknowledge these are ‘concerns, not solutions.’ Anytime we build more beds, we will see an increase in number of offenders incarcerated.

I located an article from the Vera Institute of Justice, Broken Ground: Why America Keeps Building More Jails and What It Can Do Instead. Chris Mai, Mikelina Belaineh, Ram Subramanian, and Jacob Kang-Brown November 2019.

https://www.vera.org/downloads/publications/broken-ground-jail-construction.pdf .

The article is an easy read and very informative. Many of the previous areas identified are covered in this article. Some communities and counties have faced pressures to close jails while others are expanding. “In the past decade, the number of people in jail has declined, yet jail capacity nationwide has grown by 86,400 beds.” Even with these changes; our corrections systems still have not resolved the following issues; warehousing, revolving door concerns, institutionalization, and recidivism. We learned a long time ago, we cannot build our way out of this and do not always have the necessary resources to fund expansion. I found the following from the article also interesting; James Kilgore, coined “carceral humanism; positions corrections authorities as social service authorities. But even well-intentioned correctional efforts are still correctional efforts.” This was supported with the following; ‘the experience of isolating confinement in a facility the primary aim of which remains control, surveillance, and punishment is antithetical to treatment goals.’

The Broken Ground report shed some additional light on communities and policymakers facing the decision if they should ‘construct more jails.’ Some additional questions to consider; will these initiatives reduce crime? Are ongoing treatment concerns being addressed and have we learned anything from previous lessons? Alternatives to incarceration for some offenders are a must. Research is ongoing in identifying what works and what does not work. Research data reflects some successes, yet we still face low long-term effectiveness. Continuation with programs that are not effective need to be identified and reasons why these programs are ineffective. We cannot continue in a downward spiral without making some key adjustments. The costs to incarcerate continue to escalate without some long-term positive results. What are your thoughts?

Stay out there,
Terry

Other articles by Campbell



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