New Design for Jackson County Jail Approved

PASCAGOULA, Miss. — After 12 years of delays, the Jackson County Jail is on track to begin construction this summer with a design by The Goldberg Group of St. Joseph, Mo., approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Led by architect Larry Goldberg, the $31.5 million project will use prefabricated modular steel cells in a pod design to enhance efficiency and flexibility.

“The day of the dormitory pod is waning,” Goldberg said. “It’s just not as safe as you wish it was.”

The design of the new 730-bed Jackson County Jail will feature three housing pods with each pod containing several smaller pods. This formation of housing will allow increased security and a heightened degree of housing flexibility, Goldberg said.

“Particularly with a jail versus a prison, you have no idea who’s showing up at your door at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night. The issue is how you maximize the sheriff’s housing flexibility to address up to 32 different custody groups,” Goldberg said. “What we found is that more smaller pods provide better management and heightened safety and a greater degree of custody flexibility.”

Goldberg described how a less flexible housing design causes something he calls custody slippage. For example, if a correctional facility dedicates a 30-bed pod to female inmates and only 20 of those beds are filled while there is an influx of male inmates, those 10 beds must remain empty. Goldberg refers to this scenario as custody slippage. The smaller the custody slippage, the more efficient the building, he said.

“This seems so self evident, yet so often we see jails designed today on a geometric pattern or something where you have a few identical large pods,” Goldberg said. “What the architect doesn’t realize is they’re building in inflexibility and increasing the size of that gap between overall capacity and real capacity.”

Jackson County had previously been pursuing large pods with many dormitories. County supervisors terminated their contract with Pryor & Morrow of Columbus, Miss. in August 2012 after they felt the price of the project was becoming too high. The firm’s brick and mortar design was set to house more than 800 beds.

The Goldberg Group’ 122,000-square-foot design allows for incremental expansion, Goldberg said, by filling out additional shell pods bringing capacity up to 800 beds. The design also allows for the addition of a fourth housing pod to bring capacity up to 966.

By creating a pod design with a focal point, the jail also features efficient security.

“We arrange all these smaller pods around a certain point from which a single control officer can look into each of these pods at the same time through his or her eyes,” Goldberg said. “They don’t need cameras and can oversee the activities and behavior of all the prisoners.”

The building will also be designed to sustain 155 mile per hour winds or wind gusts up to 185 miles per hour. The idea was to create a durable building in which, if a natural disaster were to ever occur, inmates would not need to leave the jail in order to find safety.

“Prisoners can still be safely sheltered being in their cells without having to evacuate a 700-bed jail,” he said.

According to Goldberg, contractor bids should be open shortly in order to meet a start date of June 2013. The project is scheduled for completion in June 2014.

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