|The order of the task areas matches that of the intake process. Catwalks crisscross the intake center, leaving the entire area open to gun coverage from above. Eighteen interview rooms (left) are without ceilings, fusing security with confidentiality.|
In contrast with its more storied history, the famous 143-year-old Joliet Correctional Center’s most recent role was limited to that of a reception center, processing and holding new inmates before transport to their final site of incarceration. Joliet’s annex was not designed to handle the high traffic of an intake and diagnostics operation, but it was the busiest of Illinois’ three reception sites, processing 22,000 inmates per year.
The aged facility also was costly to run and a prime target in a time of budget cuts. Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Corrections announced it was closing Joliet. Six miles away, on the grounds of the Stateville Correctional Center, a new 425,000-square-foot intake and discharge center was taking shape, replacing legend and lore with logical design.
Among its many superior architectural features, the $70 million Stateville Reception and Classification Center includes a below-ground service level spanning the length of its three-tiered, 1,800-bed housing structure. Minimum-security inmates working underground will deliver food and laundry by cart to 12 unmanned elevators.
From there, officers will route the carts through the galleries. The short-term inmates in these galleries will never come in contact with the long-term inmates serving them. The inmate laborers, who also will provide services for the existing Stateville Correctional Center, are housed in two, 200-bed dormitories set apart from the main reception complex.
The classification of up to 500 inmates per day will take place in a well-ordered, 38,000-square-foot intake facility where holding, interview, and medical exam areas are open to gun coverage from above. “When new inmates come into an intake operation like this for the first time, it’s a very emotionally charged process. They realize that this is it,” says Ron Budzinski, principal-in-charge for Phillips Swager Associates (PSA). “That can ignite fear, so making sure the people in that process and the staff working with them feel safe was important to the DOC.”
The areas traveled by inmates have no ceilings, keeping them within view of a secure catwalk that crisscrosses the interior of the intake garage. “The DOC wanted to make sure that, since this is the front door of corrections, new inmates understand as quickly as possible that it is the officers who are in control and it’s not the inmates who are in control,” Budzinski says. “Consequently, the department wanted to have gun coverage in the intake process.”
This setup is a significant improvement over Joliet, where the proximity of inmates to officers limited their weapons options to chemical agents. Indeed, each step in the reception and classification process reflects an improvement or innovation.
Jerry Springborn became superintendent of the Joliet Reception Center in 1987. Not long thereafter, DOC officials began discussing the need for a facility designed specifically for intake and diagnostics. When PSA came on board in 1998, DOC officials and planners asked architects to walk the intake processing path at the Joliet annex themselves.
Springborn was able to show designers a process that verged on the chaotic. Because the space was cramped, a group of inmates in one phase of the diagnostic process would often cross traffic with another group in a different phase. Who had been photographed, and who had not? “It was very confusing and difficult for staff to manage and move inmates through the process,” he says. “We wanted to avoid contaminating one population with another.”
DOC officials requested a design with just one controlled, continuous path of movement. “We looked at not only the tasks they had to perform, but also the order in which they were accomplished,” says Springborn, who is now an assistant warden at the older Stateville prison.
After incoming inmates arrive at the intake sallyport, the first order of business is a simple frisk search before securing the inmates in holding pens. From here, they are selectively drawn from the controlled area. The intake center’s floorplan dictates the flow of prisoners through the inventory of their property, strip search, clothing issuance, and shower before entering the diagnostic area for a battery of interviews and medical tests, including dental and chest X-rays.
Budzinski likens the reception and discharge facilities to the inbound and outbound traffic of an airport. “That’s why there are two garages,” he says of PSA’s response to the DOC’s needs. “In tracking which prisoners are coming and which are going-and not getting the two mixed up-there’s a distinct separation between inbound and outbound.”
Another asset to the project was DOC Associate Director George Tatella, an advocate for automation technology that establishes an electronic system for inmate records. DOC staff will input first-day diagnostic screening into the Automated Reception Program (ARP), which will continue to receive additional information throughout the inmates’ sentence. In April, the counselor program was incorporated into the ARP, and the remainder of departments conducting interviews at the center are expected to be included by the fall. The electronic system also will be integrated with the department’s existing Offender Tracking System.
“If an inmate comes back into our system as a parole violator or with a new sentence, we’ll be able to retrieve previously obtained information and use that in our diagnostic process,” Springborn says. “We’ve developed the system to allow subsequent interviewers-whether it be the psychologist, the substance abuse counselor, or someone from immigration-to be able to build upon and determine if the information from the other interviewers is correct.”
Eighteen separate interview rooms ensure confidentiality. “A lot of the information they gather from the individuals is sensitive, so the inmate needs to feel secure,” says Budzinski. “They can’t think that what they reveal is going to be overheard, whether it be their problems or their gang affiliations.”
As well as providing substance abuse counseling and psychological evaluations, Stateville’s confidential interview rooms and exhaustive classification procedures promise to play a key role in the statewide effort to eliminate gang influence over prison operations such as visitation scheduling, work assignments, and recreation times.
|The 1,800-bed housing complex for prisoners undergoing classification (left) is connected to the processing center by an enclosed corridor and to the kitchen and laundry facilities by an underground ramp. Two 200-bed housing units for minimum-security inmate laborers are set apart from the complex (right).|
Even before plans for the new reception center were sprung, Stateville already had an established place in the history of prison design. Opened in 1925, its original buildings are often cited as an outstanding example of the panopticon-circular galleries designed around an interior surveillance tower, a configuration first envisioned by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Benthem in 1791.
The existing site seemed advantageous in every way as builders prepared to break ground. Stateville’s 2,264-acre parcel yielded ample space, and offered the benefit of existing guard towers for added coverage. It was only six miles from Joliet and could easily accommodate offenders from Cook County, which produces the majority of Illinois’ inmates. In addition, William A. Randolf Inc., the general contractor, came with previous prison-building experience.
Workers began excavating in the spring of 2000 to create the underground ramp that would service the sub-level. But it wasn’t long before they realized the site was less than ideal, according to Kevin Kruckeberg, Randolf’s project manager. Hidden beneath the site were large amounts of field tile put in place more than 100 years ago for farmland drainage. “They call it ‘unforeseen varied conditions,'” says Kruckeberg. “Nobody knew they were there. We dug a giant hole for the service tunnel and it interrupted the buried tile.”
The broken drainage system drove millions of gallons of water into the hole during the rainiest spring and summer in Illinois history; one inch of rain became ten feet of water. De-watering suddenly became the focus of the project, with as many as seven six-inch diesel pumps running at one time.
Work never ceased. Kruckeberg’s team responded to the setback by creating temporary sewers and rerouting the old drains. His team changed the sequence of construction, starting with the minimum-security housing units first rather than last because their foundations weren’t as deep. Headaches lingered through the winter, however. Water in the hole froze. Tents were required to provide heat as builder’s worked on the sub-level. Concrete couldn’t be poured because the ground was frozen, too.
Fortunately, the project delays of 2000 did not repeat themselves the next year. The winter of 2001-2002 was one of the mildest on record, allowing Kruckeberg’s team to begin finishes on the minimum-security housing units earlier than expected. A six-month setback was narrowed to four, although to Kruckeberg, this is no consolation. “It’s hard to say you made it up, because it’s still behind,” he laments.
Uncertainty lingers even as builders near completion. As in many states, the frigid Illinois budget climate have left corrections budgets up in the air, threatening to delay the opening of the Stateville Reception & Classification Center.
Under One Roof
|Minimum-security inmates serve the processed prisoners from a sub-level, providing food and laundry to people they will never see. Carts are ferried to the galleries above by 12 unmanned elevators.|
Neither unexpected site conditions nor budgetary constraints can diminish the importance of this novel facility-one that is sure to influence future inmate reception centers. “The configuration is geared to accommodate the staging areas and the service level,” says PSA’s Gerry Guerrero of the 900-cell reception housing complex, where inmates undergoing classification or release procedures will stay from between seven to 21 days.
The intake and discharge center and their sallyports are part of the same structure and completely confine inmate movement within the interior, from arrival to departure. Kitchen and laundry facilities are connected to the service ramp that takes workers to the sub-level. “It is almost all under one roof,” says Guerrero, who served as project manager/architect. “Other than the minimum-security units, it’s all connected.” For the main facility, PBM Concrete Inc. installed 2,202 pieces of precast concrete, 480 of which were five-sided cell modules used to create the 24 housing galleries.
Kruckeberg says a primary construction challenge was monitoring the varying tolerances of the precast cells and the rest of the structure. “We had to make sure everything was set level and plumb and within tolerance,” Kruckeberg says. “If one part of the building registered on the plus side, we had to make sure the next unit compensated with a minus so the error was not compounded by following the same measurement.”
“There are enough galleries to give the DOC options and to segregate inmates as needed,” says Guerrero. In addition, the control rooms are located between every two galleries, allowing one officer to supervise 160 inmates at once. Each gallery is comprised of 42 cells on three tiers that share an exercise yard, except in the administrative segregation unit, where troublesome inmates exercise alone in four smaller, solitary yards. All inmates will remain under 23-hour-per-day lockdown during their stay.
The gallery housing inmates with mental health problems is located next to the medical wing, which includes four two-bed infirmaries, eight psychiatric cells, and two negative-pressure isolation cells. Eight testing areas also are interspersed throughout the galleries to allow counselors, psychologists, or intelligence personnel to follow-up on issues raised in intake interviews or medical exams.
The central spine of the facility is a 700-foot corridor running from the reception center to the far end of the galleries. All the core components are located off the spine, Guerrero says. Measuring 15 feet wide, the corridor allows inmate movement in both directions, with an additional secure walkway for officers.
The gallery arrangement, with its straight rows of cells, also benefits officers who must deliver food carts to inmates. The 12 unmanned elevators are positioned in staging areas that also include trash and linen chutes to the sub-level, further allowing the separation of inmate laborers and the prisoners they serve.
The Stateville Reception & Classification Center’s mission is part of a larger effort on the part of the Illinois DOC to create a new generation of safer, more efficient prisons. Substantial savings are expected. For example, housing inmate laborers at Stateville will likely cost close to the Illinois state average of $19,500 per inmate per year, compared to $30,324 at Joliet.
Opening is scheduled for October, but facility closures and the potential layoff of 2,000 correctional workers statewide has protracted the Illinois budget crisis. Although Joliet’s fate is sealed, other closures have spurred ongoing battles. Renewed union contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees remain a possibility, which could result in prisoners arriving at Stateville with nowhere to send them.
“In tough economic times, tough decisions must be made,” said DOC Director Donald N. Snyder Jr., who believes Stateville is still likely to open on time. “But we will never jeopardize the safety and security of our prison system while making those decisions. We are trying to deal with a modern inmate population with a relic from the 1850s.”
“The modern inmate is much more violent, associated with a multitude of sociological problems,” said Snyder, citing design as a crucial element to improved security and supervision. “By having this state-of-the-art classification center, we’ll be able to do a better job of bringing inmates into the prison setting under greater control and with a more comprehensive understanding of who they are and what we need to do to rehabilitate and supervise them.”
At Stateville, the end of the line is a point of departure.