By Lisa Kopochinski, Correctional News

Correctional News recently sat down with *four experienced architects to find out the latest design trends in the corrections industry and what they foresee in the next few years. The Q&A consisted of Maynard Feist, Principal and Correctional Design Expert with Lionakis, based in Sacramento, CA; Mark Van Allen, Principal, Justice and Civic Leader, DLR Group in Orlando, FL; Jeff Bradley, Principal and Director of Justice at HOK Architects in Houston, TX; and Bruce Omtvedt, Associate Principal and Corrections Market Segment Leader at Dewberry in Raleigh, NC.

Here is what Maynard Feist of Lionakis had to say:

What are some of the top design trends in the corrections industry?

There have been several current design trends where institutions are really embracing the need for change and some of these trends have already been influenced by public and political acknowledgement. Most notably, we are addressing the increased demand for behavioral health housing and treatment, focused and meaningful programming, and transitional re-entry housing and treatment facilities. Over the last several years, many of our county clients have recognized the value of providing re-entry and transitional facilities, which include tailored and focused programs to support the continuum of care serving those inmates nearing the end of their sentence.

Together, with increased programming and community services, these facilities offer the tools and the resources necessary to more smoothly integrate the formerly incarcerated back into society with follow up care to reduce recidivism. Often these facilities are separate buildings from the main jail and, although they share support services, they also have the capability to operate more independently and provide the flexibility to staff to be more proactive and results driven.

Have you worked on any projects recently that reflect some of these trends? Tell us about a project that stands out and why.

Lionakis has been working with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department for several years. We are currently completing construction on the first phase of a multi-phased expansion and renovation project at the County Main Jail. The expansion portion of the project includes a transitional mental health housing unit, extensive in-custody program rooms and group treatment areas to serve the entire population. There is a new public front with administration staff and service providers, a visitation area, and a day reporting center for out-of-custody individuals with multiple programming opportunities. The new kitchen includes a culinary program and a laundry facility to serve the entire campus.

The phase two renovation portion of this project includes an expanded intake area, a new and expanded medical clinic and housing, and a special needs unit for acute mental health housing. The County has been progressive and committed to programming and treatment for the individuals it serves.

How have design trends in the corrections industry changed in the last 10 years and what has spurred this change?

Policy makers at both the state and county level are consistently looking for opportunities to reduce the incarcerated population and promote change. Through multiple stakeholders and Community Correction Partnerships, the availability to provide meaningful, evidence-based programs for individuals in the system, (whether in custody or out-of-custody), needs to be available and personalized to the individual. To accommodate and promote this change, there must be ample treatment space, but there also needs to be a more normative environment that is conducive to positive change for those occupying these facilities. The established mindset is often a challenge and to go beyond how they currently operate implies taking a risk on change in an environment that inherently operates in a high-risk setting.

As designers, we have a tremendous opportunity to influence change and provide facilities that foster rehabilitation and provide flexibility for changing environments, while still supporting the institution’s operational philosophy and the safety of all occupants. If we can get a variety of stakeholders and service providers together and better understand common issues and desired outcomes, the collaborative results include a better understanding of what the built environment can do to provide support to all the various stakeholders.

What do you foresee in the near future – three to five years – for the corrections industry in terms of design?

There continues to be more awareness of mental health in our correctional institutions coupled with poverty, homelessness and a drug epidemic, resulting in a system that’s often not prepared to properly deal with these problems. We need to better assess the criminalization of the mentally ill and look more closely at the ramifications of the possibility that our jails and prisons serve as the largest psychiatric facilities in our state. Public sentiment is strong for the reduction of incarceration rates and initiatives to develop methods and best practices that work to remove obstacles to succeed in reducing levels of recidivism. The design and construction of re-entry and treatment facilities will increase this acknowledgement as well as the positive results of focused programming and reduction in recidivism rates.

Designers and stakeholders need to collaborate with non-institutional, private and community-based organizations that are successful in assisting individuals successfully re-enter the workforce, to re-connect with their families, and the communities that the formerly incarcerated are set to return to.


*This post is modified from the original post available in full on pages 34-36 of Correctional News. The excerpts here reflect only the answers from Lionakis Principal, Maynard Feist, for brevity.