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Archive for October, 2009

Alternative Energy Technologies Available for Correction Facilities

October 19th, 2009

The implementation of alternative energies in correction facilities helps reduce the amount of tax payer funding over time and can qualify the system for government green-initiative grants. Many correctional facilities throughout the U.S. are committed to implementing alternative-energy technologies to fuel their energy demands. Under the guidance of prison planners’ seeking to operate a more sustainable facility, examples of alternative technologies already applied include:

  • Bio-mass boiler was installed at the South Central Correctional Center in Missouri. The boiler replaces propane with wood chips as the primary source of fuel. The project resulted in approximately $450,000 dollar savings in annual energy costs.
  • Missouri’s State Prison’s hot water is heated by the conversion process of changing methane gas from the Jefferson City Landfill into electricity.
  • Washington State’s new facility expansion to Coyote Ridge Corrections incorporates 135 solar panels to produce enough electricity to power approximately 518 televisions.
  • Ironwood State Prison in California also implemented solar power with the installation of a photovoltaic system. The new system is a joint effort between Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and SunEdison.
  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons is powering security towers with the latest wind and solar technologies eliminating the need for grid power.
  • Oregon Department of Corrections replaced old appliances with energy efficient ones, modified washing machines to reuse rinse water. The department also installed solar water heaters and used a geothermal well to heat water.

 Implementing alternative-energy technology is just a step in creating a more environmentally friendly and more efficient facility. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the qualifying standard to guide and enhance environmentally responsible building. Catch our next blog as we dive into how LEED improves correctional facility operations.

mwentworth Uncategorized

Evidence-Based Design Reduces Costs and Increases Effective Outcomes

October 12th, 2009
The first noted prison in the newly formed American colonies in 1775 resembled a large house with few restrictions housing both females and males. The lenient character of this first prison reflected the colonists’ Calvinist belief that just as sin could not be cured, criminals could not be rehabilitated. Therefore, no effort was paid to the behavioral correction or education within the prison walls. Following several reformations within the penal system, prisons are expected to play a significant role in transforming criminal behavior.
Studies support that the design of a prison impacts the prisoner environment and drives down operational costs. There are core effective design initiatives shown to play a role:
  • Space that encourages socialization and reduced inmate idle time
  • Information-technology solutions for inmates
  • Rehabilitative areas
  • Space customized to detainee limitations such as age or incapacitation issues
  • Segregation by offender type

Research shows that idle prisoners results in increased depression and violent actions. The color, texture, light and attention to cell size all contribute to detainee behavior. By designing secure, engaging social spaces where prisoners can interact, learn and partake in positive stimulation, prisoner’s experience decreased physical and mental health issues, which in turn directly decreases prison’s healthcare costs and mental health treatments.

In addition to purposely enhancing social and private spaces, increasing inmate access to information technologies during in-cell time advances productivity. Cell solutions, such as an in-house computer system, provides an educational and communication tool for staff to communicate with prisoners. This provides prisoners with more interaction and staff with better communication control. Providing information technology along with designing space for rehabilitation activities is shown to increase the success of transition back into mainstream society, decrease reoffending crimes and provides prisoners with a hopeful outlook.

Creating spaces unique to prison sub-groups, such as age and level of criminal severity, drives down operational costs. Currently, older inmates over 50 years of age are often housed in prisons for younger inmates and have to walk to services throughout the complex. Being at a higher risk for health problems, it is not uncommon to see corrections staff spending time assisting this group. Proper prison design reduces these issues by providing appropriate access for this prison population and reduces cost through the better use of personnel and a reduction in aid supplies.

The level of crime severity directly correlates with the level of security management. Prisons can reduce security costs by pairing and managing the needs more appropriately. Designing the facility to segregate by offender type assists in security management.

Understanding the role of architectural design in the corrections industry is becoming a key topic in prison reform. See our next blog that discusses the link between corrections behavior and evidence-based research and architectural design.

mwentworth Uncategorized

Long Range Master Planning and Site Acquisition Go Hand-in-Hand

October 9th, 2009

As the corrections industry expands to cater to the increasing population of inmates, correctional budgets are weighing on state and federal governments as well as privately owned prisons. In fact, this is the biggest budget line item for the majority of states. While methods for controlling the prison population are consistently questioned, making efficient changes during building and expansion processes is essential to driving down costs to handle the swelled inmate population. The most essential part of any building project occurs before a single architect sits down to the drawing board. Taking time to clearly understand current situations, set long-range goals and design for improvement will help both the private and public prisons. Carefully and patiently selecting a site and planning for optimal land use will dramatically cut upfront construction costs and will enhance the future of a facility.

Often times, prison planners desperately want to move the dirt and get the project done quickly to realize a return on investment. Without proper land planning, however, the facility may be up and running only to have significantly reduced site capacity and wasted large amounts of land. Optimizing the prison’s land development plan prior to engaging in facility design can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs. Focusing on two key actions can make these saving a reality:

  • Footprint optimization: This is the process of understanding the organizational, operational and function requirements for the prison, the site’s opportunities and constraints. Then moving to develop a site plan which minimizes dimensions between the physical elements resulting in a compact “lean” development plan.
  • Share or Eliminate Infrastructure Costs: Negotiating with local municipalities for infrastructure support and contributions can result in significant cost reduction. In some cases, the municipality will offer the infrastructure, land, at no cost in order to obtain the employment and tax revenue.

In the same step, selecting a site and using the land directly affects future growth possibilities and facility effectiveness. Building simply to house the current prison population is a close-minded approach as trends show significant growth. Since 2000, state and federal prison populations have increased at an annual average 4.1 percent. Setting a master plan that works for the current and future population along with facility capacity goals will allow planers and designers to achieve a better gauge on land use. The master plan is derived by:

Indentifying start-up bed capacity target: The right number of beds and cells to optimize start-up cash flow

  • Indentifying right-sized bed capacity growth stages: the most cost-effective capacity expansion size
  • Identifying end-game capacity: the goal for prison population and understanding how the prison can expand to meet end-game capacity while minimizing disruption to existing operations and not jeopardize security

mwentworth Uncategorized

Master Planning for Easy Prison Expansion with Minimal Operational Disruption

October 7th, 2009

When an initial correctional facility is built, creating a master plan for current and projected trends in prison populations as well as expected business decisions will save construction costs in the long run. The master plan should include: knowing the number inmates to build for from the get-go, the most cost-effective bed capacity and the targeted bed count and number of clients.

Planning for these three factors plays a major role in designing a building and more importantly designing for future easy, cost-effective expansion projects that do not interrupt critical prison operations. It is extremely imperative, due to the mission-critical nature of a prison, that when a facility is up and running that operations are not interrupted for any reason. Operations include:

•Inmate and staff flow
•Movement of goods in and out
•Infrastructure: communications, water, sewage and electricity
It is also important to recognize before the initial building is built that once a secure perimeter is established, that no future construction occurs behind it.

Designing a master plan that is flexible to fit future needs is critical.

•A building that is flexible will allow for a prison to bring on multiple clients as future business decisions are made. While the primary facility is usually built for only one client, bringing on multiple clients can bring with it increased revenue and requires a facility to be flexible. Sharing a building with multiple clients requires a person flow that does not allow comingling of prisoners of specified states due to variations in standards and programming. Realizing the benefits of including several clients is only possible if future expansion is included in the master plan.
•Not planning optimal infrastructure for expansion projects will drive up future costs. The worst thing during an expansion is worrying about size and location of infrastructure: digging up plumbing because it isn’t the best solution for the expanded facility. The master plan for the initial building should include current needs of water, electricity and communications and also a plan to fit these systems to expanded ones.

mwentworth Uncategorized

Correctional Facility Design to Enhance Staff Outcomes and Satisfaction

October 2nd, 2009

A recent article from noted how the effects of the prison environment wear down correctional officers. They work in an environment of chronic stress, continual alertness with the ever-present possibility and exposure to violence. Correction officers read about crimes in offender files, they view assault and riot videos for training purposes. They witness first-hand riots and assaults or have been victims. Gradually this exposure coupled with the high stress and need for continual watchfulness, breeds symptoms of psychological disturbance such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and secondary traumatic stress.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), in 2000, the average national turnover rate for correctional officers was 16.1 percent. The American Corrections Association (ACA) concluded stress and burnout among the reasons for the high rate.

Diminishing the potential for prison crime through design while integrating elements to support a positive work environment will enhance correction officers’ job outlook and help to reduce the advanced turnover rate.

Creating consistency within correctional facilities allows prison officers to become accustomed to space and supervision tasks. 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 with prison systems, will allow for easy facility transfers and standard training.

Implement a design which incorporates direct supervision. Data gathered by the NICIC to analyze the success of podular, direct-supervision jails indicate sharp reductions in vandalism, escape, disturbances, suicides, murders, and sexual and aggravated assaults. Less violence directly results in safer work environment as required force is reduced. The direct supervision also allows correction officers to readily avert problem situations before they escalate.

Strategic person flow throughout a prison provides an optimal safe and secure environment. Restricting interaction between visitors and weekend visitors from standard prison population is proven to reduce the amount of contraband throughout the prison. Understanding prison flow in the pre-design process eliminates unsupervised, blind areas where problems are likely to occur.

Boosting staff morale through facility design will increase retention rates. In effort to reduce the feelings of being locked up, correctional facility design should include adequately sized and furnished locker and changing rooms, muster rooms and training rooms, well-located staff restrooms, cheerful dining and break rooms and natural lighting.

mwentworth Uncategorized