More Than Just Bed Counts

socially conscious building design at dearborn county jail

Correctional design is not just about bed counts, square footage requirements, and staff to inmate ratios. Design affects all of the operations therein; from medical and mental health care, to educational programs, and the safety and security of the inmates and staff. If these operations and the needs of the inmate are central to the design process, the likelihood of  recidivism is reduced.

The expansion of Dearborn County Jail in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, proves a sound case study for the benefits of socially conscious building design. As Architect  and Engineer of Record, Rosser International worked closely with the community of Dearborn County on the addition and renovation of their jail. In a recent issue of Correctional News, Lindsey Coulter profiles the challenges and successful outcomes of the Dearborn County Jail expansion. County administrator Terri Randall states about the project, “It’s not just about expanding beds, it’s about solving an overall problem with jail overcrowding.”

“We’re doing a lot to upgrade and expand our community corrections,” said Randall. In large part, Randall is referring to their Jail Chemical Addition Program (JCAP), for which there was a lack of space dedicated to helping inmates transition into more normative living environments on their way toward release. Moving the JCAP program into the jail provided an environment more conducive to the programs and desired outcomes of  the program. In total the expansion provided 10 new medium and minimum security housing units, an additional 208 beds and a new women’s unit. But perhaps most importantly, the housing units provided classification units providing increasingly more normative living situations to help the inmates modify their behavior in anticipation of their return to society.

Rosser’s Mark Van Allen, AIA, LEED AP, Project Architect for the expansion, stated, “The design challenge was to marry the unique needs of our client and the JCAP program to a very efficient building that’s easy to operate and manage with the least possible staff that was also the most cost effective to build.”

The project also provided the opportunity for the public and the county elected officials to discuss the needs of their community. “It was a very collaborative process,” said Van Allen, “Lots of good dialogue about why we have the corrections needs we have in the United States and what are we doing about it.”

To learn more about the Dearborn County Jail expansion, read Correctional News’ full article.

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