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This article was written on 03 Mar 2013, and is filled under Commentaries/Interviews.

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ADAPTING JAILS AND PRISONS

…An Approach to Reuse

By Michael McMillen, AIA (09/12/2012)

thomson-correctional-center-300x223The simple answer is you reuse them (prisons) for other purposes but that can be easier said than done in many cases. First of all, renovation and reconstruction costs can be extraordinarily high for secure facilities, even to convert them to non-secure functions. Sometimes the cost may equal or exceed new construction costs. So unless you have an unrestricted budget, you’d want to use existing buildings in ways that require limited remodeling. For example:

  • Shops and warehouses could easily become industry space;
  • School spaces might be converted for jobs training, alternative education, business start-ups, office support industries and “clean” vocations (electronics, computer service, etc.), day-treatment, and meeting and conference functions;
  • Administrative offices could serve new businesses, local agencies (court services, city and county government) and not-for-profits;
  • Recreation facilities such as gyms, fitness areas, and outdoor fields might support a variety of community activities, YMCA and Boys Club-type organizations, and even newly developed residential uses
  • Housing units, often with many small rooms and large dayroom areas, might easily serve new residential purposes for the justice system (mental health, drug treatment and other special populations, transitional lodging) with limited modification. Non-justice uses such as housing for the homeless and emergency shelters are also a possibility, as are industries, vocational training, libraries, industrial shops for businesses and agencies, and long-term storage for state and local agencies.

The point here is that justice facilities, if they become available when populations and funding decrease, may support a diverse range of other activities that benefit the community, local agencies and businesses. Sometimes the cost may be high, but at least existing physical plant is being used rather than mothballed (and the cost of mothballing can be pretty steep all by itself). And you have the benefit of a more sustainable, or “greener” approach to developing needed space that might attract external funding.

Michael McMillen, AIA, is a design director for Justice Solutions Group. He has served as an instructor for the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). His monograph, “Construction, Operations and Staff Training for Juvenile Confinement Facilities,” prepared for the U.S. Office of Justice Programs, is widely distributed as a primer detailing best practices for juvenile facility development and operations.

The above is an excerpt from a longer article. To read the full article published by Correctional News go to: http://www.correctionalnews.com/articles/2012/09/12/adapting-jails-and-prisons

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