The Frederick County Work Release Center in Maryland, a published project in the Academy of Justice Architecture’s 2007 Justice Facilities Review, exemplifies what many corrections professionals consider a re-emergence of emphasis on offender re-entry.
The facility, located near the Frederick County detention center, provides a plethora of programs — from healthcare education to personal income management — while allowing low-risk offenders the opportunity for employment in the community.
After operating the work-release program from within the detention center’s walls for several years, the new work release center was built across the street from the previous facility in an effort to create a more rehabilitative and normative environment for offenders.
In addition to the architectural enhancements, program options for offenders were increased significantly, according to county officials.
“It was very basic, very traditional and it had a minimal amount of programs,” says Theresa Benner, director of community services for the county’s corrections bureau. “The way we do business is a lot different than what we used to do.”
The facility, which has the capacity to house 128 offenders, is part of a 20-year expansion plan initiated in the 1980s that is based on economic and population projections for the county.
(Above) The work release center was designed with a pitched roof to distinguish it from the detention center that is located across the street. (Below) Site limitations forced planners to rethink the building’s configuration and create a larger central dayroom.
“It reduces the cost to taxpayers, relieves overcrowding and generates revenue for Fredrick County,” Benner says.
Offenders are sentenced to the facility during the judicial process and stay for an average of seven to 12 months, although some offenders could stay as long as 18 months.
“We really encourage them to get involved,” Benner says “it’s incumbent on them to fix themselves and get better. We persuade some of those folks that have a hard time getting motivated, and tell them they don’t really have an option.”
Although the offenders are theoretically supposed to have jobs when they are enrolled in the program, they are not always employed when they arrive because they sometimes lose their employment as a result of their conviction. However, county officials provide assistance to motivated inmates through partnerships and contacts with various agencies in the area.
“We continually partner with local agencies, and provide a lot more services and programming,” Benner says.
Design Challenges, Enhancements
|Smaller dayrooms are located adjacent to living spaces.|
Planners for the new facility ran into challenges early during the design process when they discovered that the site could have historical significance and potential flooding issues.
After evaluations were completed, it was determined that the site was far enough away from a historic Civil War battlefield that no design alterations were necessary, but the building’s footprint had to be significantly modified to remove it from a 100-year flood plain.
Project architects were able to keep the building in the same location by adopting a triangular configuration for the facility.
“We had to shape the building to fit within the remaining space on the site,” says Marlene Shade, AIA, LEED AP, project manager at PSA Dewberry. “At the same time it allowed us to create a central day room that would function as a multi-purpose space and a place where inmates could interact and learn from each other, instead of having all of the dayroom space adjunct to the individual housing pods.”
As a result, much of the programming takes place in the central multi-purpose space, and the dayrooms adjacent to the housing pods are smaller.
|Space for a variety of programs is located at the facility.|
“We reduced the size of the day- room at each of the housing pods, which provides for a smaller, more intimate work area right were the inmates sleep,” Shade says. “The larger dayroom space was combined to create the shape that we needed for the site and a space where inmates can interact and begin to make the transition into a normal environment.”
Planners also incorporated colors that are not often found in the correctional setting. Red, yellow and green hues were incorporated throughout the building in order to shed the traditional institutional feel. Carpeting was included to improve acoustics and aesthetics.
“Frequently, you will find color in a correctional setting on doors and door frames or flooring, but I would say more often than not the color is very bright,” Shade says. “We went with colors that you might find in a less institutional setting.”
An added benefit of the design enhancements is a greater respect among inmates for the environment in which they live and less vandalism, she says.
|Planners aimed to create a noninstitutional feel by using paint and carpeting, which also improves acoustics.|
Planners also designed the exterior of the building with aesthetics in mind. The facility was designed with brick to match surrounding buildings, but a pitched roof was incorporated to offset the work release center from the detention center and for maintenance purposes.
“We matched the existing brick on the adjacent buildings and tried to match the overall scale,” Shade says. “We deviated with a pitched roof, which was a county preference, and it distinguishes it from the main detention center.”
Despite the architectural improvements, she emphasizes that the mission of the facility is what makes it most unique.
“The most interesting thing about the building is the programs and the way they work with inmates,” she says. “They wanted the building to support that.”
Facility Name: Frederick County Work Release Center
Owner/Operator: Frederic County Sheriff’s Department
Cast in Place Concrete: B.T. Concrete