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Archive for September, 2009

Effective Prison Design Can Reduce Sexual Abuses

September 29th, 2009

Sexual abuse in prisons is as old as prisons themselves. While knowledge of these occurrences is prevalent, only recently have guidelines and standards for prisons to follow in effort to prevent abuses come into fruition. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), an eight-member panel formed under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, released its final report on June 23 and proposed standards to prevent, detect, respond to as well as monitor sexual abuse of incarcerated or detained individuals throughout the United States.

  • NPREC reported more than 60,000 inmates are sexually abused every year. 
  • Experts estimated that the total number of inmates in the US who have been sexually assaulted over the past 20 years could exceed 1 million. 

Along with prison administrators providing education programs and instilling safer cultures, architects can design correctional facilities that through function and layout address issues causing the extreme amount of sexual victimization cases. Catalysts for more sexual abuse cases that can be addressed through design include:

  • Segregating prison populations based on evidence-based offender classification will provide safe havens for prison populations more likely to be sexually abused. Youth, small stature, homosexual inmates with a lack of experience in correctional facilities or with mental illnesses appear to be at increased the risk of sexual victimization by other prisoners. While classification and segregation is necessary, it is also important to not allow these populations to be left out of programming. 
  • Overcrowded facilities are harder to supervise and are harder to carve out spaces for vulnerable prisoners. Inmates in crowed areas often are more aggressive and feel more tension provoking more assaults. Programming that creates a culture that prevents sexual assault and teaches imamates to protect themselves becomes inadequate as the prison itself is stretched to cater to large population. 
  • Prison designs that promote the most efficient supervision will provide the most safety for all inmates and staff. Correction facility designs such as podular, direct supervision allow the most unobstructed view of inmates in a particular are of a detention facility. Direct supervision also allows correction officers to interact with inmates and are more able to avert problem situations. 
  • Understanding the prison structure and identifying problem areas where assaults are likely to occur will lessen the amount of victimizations. Employing surveillance cameras in these areas and understanding prison flow in the predesign process will eliminate these unsupervised places.

mwentworth Uncategorized

Solutions to Reduce Correctional Staff Stress and Inmate Aggression

September 21st, 2009

While the effects of excessive noise are readily available, noise control within prisons is often overlooked in predesign, marginalized or victim of budgetary constraints. Many corrections professionals believe noise is part of the natural prison physical environment thus, beyond their ability to change. Through design interventions however, noise can be reduced to produce a better built environment for all inside.

Experienced jail administrator, Morton Liebowitz suggested materials and designs to be implemented during the design and construction processes in effort to reduce noise within correctional facilities:

  • Irregularly shaped rooms
  • Acoustical materials between ceiling, wall and floor surfaces
  • Acoustical materials should be at least an inch thick
  • Air space behind acoustical materials to help absorb low-frequency sound
  • Carpeting
  • Acoustical materials located near sound sources
  • Upholstered furniture

Exposure to loud noises for an extended period of time can lead to increased negative biological and psychological effects. According to researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, excessive noise levels are also associated with patterns of increased irritability and aggression and decreased cooperation. Also, excessive noise levels in correctional settings are associated with increased levels of stress and heightened safety and security concerns among staff.

Noise was studied at the Oshkosh Correction Institution in Oshkosh, Wis. “The Wisconsin Department of Corrections Noise Study” concluded that:

  • High noise levels contribute significantly to staff concerns about safety, assault and maintaining control of their housing units. In housing units with the highest noise levels, reducing noise was ranked as the single most important strategy for addressing staff concerns about safety and control.
  • Correctional staff also identified noise as a major contributor to stress and tension over staffing levels, lack of program resources and co-workers’ management techniques.


So how loud should a prison be?
According to the American Correctional Association’s noise standard, inmate housing should not exceed 70 decibels during daytime hours and should stay below 45 decibels (dBA) at night. In Oshkosh, when noise levels were reduced below 65 dBA, staff tended not to consider their unit noisy and reported they were less concerned with inmate behavior as it affects their safety.
In addition, noise mitigation provides credits for facilities looking to become LEED certified.

mwentworth Uncategorized

The High Cost of “Great” Design

September 18th, 2009

Buildings that look the most aesthetically pleasing or are one-of-a-kind in design often receive awards and prizes of distinction. While the design may be very attractive to outside viewers, you need to ask yourself the most important question: Will the facility design proactively work to enhance process and drive down costs? Will the facility work with your other facilities to provide the same benefits? Prison operators miss huge cost saving opportunities when they build “unique” facilities for each location or community.

Contrary to the design objectives of individual architects, one of the most effective cost-reduction construction strategies is to create a modular facility design that can be repeated in virtually any location with a few simple customizable “plug and play” components.

The benefits of utilizing a standardized design include:

  • The ability for staff to move from facility to facility with minimal training and ease: The National Institute for Corrections (NICIC) reported that when direct supervision was introduced in the 80s, most correctional officers had at least initial adjustment problems. Even though direct supervision was proven to be safer, with fear at the root, officers were not trained in how to be in direct and solo contact with prisoners. Creating consistency within prison systems, will allow for easy facility transfers and standard training.
  • Promotes efficient operations in multi-plant businesses
  • Solidifies branding impact: As a business, private prisons need to brand their services and appearance in order to be recognized by both investors and clients.
  • Reduces upfront construction costs: When using a proven facility model, the cost of designing is significantly reduced as only minor tweaks to the standard need to be made.
  • Expedited construction, move-in and start-up dates: A standardized design will be repeated. After the first of its kind is built, the construction team, already having had experience with it and the materials, can move more quickly to build the facility.

mwentworth Uncategorized

What it Really Means to Listen

September 15th, 2009

Any architecture firm can design a building. But how do you get a facility that supports your business strategy and drives operational efficiency?  The key:  an architect that listens.

Choose an architect with a unique design process built around first listening to clarify the foundational needs behind any project. 

Business owners, in order to be successful define a vision and over-all goal for their organization. In the same light, the organization has a mission and purpose. Like any investment into the organization, the facility should produce a return. An architect with a shared understanding of your business will create an environment that will help the company achieve its objectives today, tomorrow and in the future. 

This is accomplished as an architect or designer meets with your leadership team to extract these critical objectives first and then sits down to the drawing board to comingle your vision into a tangible design. The architect should ask the hard questions behind the need for brick and mortar and indentify the business’ vision, mission and expected ROI.

Peter Mancuso, Chairman, CEO of Lindquist Machinery Corporation in Green Bay, Wis, in a recent interview about his experience working with an architect said, “It’s all based on the ability to listen and ask questions until you really get down to what you are trying to accomplish.”

Click to here more from Lindquist Machine about Performa Inc.

mwentworth Uncategorized

Top 10 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Build

September 9th, 2009


Every new project whether a large-scale organizational capital asset system, a park or a facility poses crucial development questions that should be answered in the planning stage.


Avoiding unforeseen problems and getting the most out of project dollars requires that the following questions be answered:


1. Will the project deliver what you want and expect?

2. Will the potential return of investment justify the risk?

3. Is the location suitable?

4. What is the best way to use the property?

5. What is the worth of our current capital assets?

6. How will environment safeguards be met?

7. How can the public contribute to the process?

8. Could current facilities handle additional staff without expansion?

9. Could current facilities handle additional operations without expansion?

10. Are there expansion options on the existing property?

Once these questions are answered, you will be sure to get the solution that best meets what you and the facility’s occupants need at a lower costs than you originally anticipated.

mwentworth Uncategorized

4 Ways to Dramatically Cut Operation Costs

September 8th, 2009

Whether you are a private or public prison operator, you understand the continual pressure to cut costs while providing the best rehabilitative care for inmates.  One of the most commonly overlooked opportunities to cut costs is optimizing work flow and usage during the facility design process.  Here are 4 proven ways to dramatically cut operation costs.

1. Map Work Processes: Analyze all work processes, staff traffic flow, proximity and tasks to create a floor plan that reduces wasted time and maximizes productivity.

In the healthcare industry, one study found that nurses spent nearly 29 percent of their time walking to and from the nurses’ station and on supply runs. Through an analysis of work process, designs that include decentralized nurse stations and supply caches reduced budgeted staffing care hours and increased the time spent in direct-care activities. 

2. Document Key Operational Technologies: Advances in technology reduces required staff and improve staff productivity. When building, consider what technologies would best suit your facility. The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC), part of the National Institute of Justice’s Office of Science and Technology, offers prison operators support, research findings and technological expertise assisting in technology selection allowing them to perform their duties more safely and efficiently.

3. Map Traffic Patterns: Projecting inmate traffic flow to determine possible bottlenecks that could be areas of security concern resulting in increased amounts of correctional officer supervision.

4. Document User Needs and Ideas: Building with the user behavior and tasks in mind will ensure optimized productivity which directly brings down operational costs.

mwentworth Uncategorized

How to Get the ROI You Want

September 4th, 2009

Bluntly- construction of a new facility is downright expensive. Furthermore, if not built to suit the needs or goals of your organization, it could end up costing you even more in renovations and operations. It is extremely important that the huge investment you secure in a facility pays you back. It all begins in the predesign process. Follow these three steps to ensure your finalized facility works to enhance your organization and doesn’t hinder it with hidden post-construction costs.

1.) Carefully choose an architect firm– one that doesn’t come to the table with predetermined solutions to your problem they have not yet heard.

Often times, administrators seek an architecture firm with only one thought, “I need a new building.” Owners often don’t understand what exactly they need and can be easily sold. An architecture firm that tries to sell a solution to you before understanding the challenges and goals of your organization will create a facility that costs you more in the end. An architecture firm that guides prethinking process by asking the right questions to understand your culture, users and processes will provide a facility that performs to enhance your organization and help you regain what was spent on the initial construction project.

2.) Identify the blood of your organization

In the project planning stage with your architect, identify and define the problem and discuss, identify and review the directives (goals, objectives, assumptions, critical issues, facts, milestones etc.) for the entire endeavor. These directives are used as the road map to guide the project. Also in this step, make sure your organization’s processes are carefully mapped by the architect.

3.) Manufacture a master plan

Working side-by-side with your architect, create a master plan that explores and develops a conceptual model for physically organizing the site and facilities. The master plan should include prioritized and scheduled capital investments.

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