A Centrifugal Force

Jail design has come a long way since the days of the Panopticon, a circular prison design introduced in the late 1700s that was created to allow officers to observe inmates from a central vantage point without allowing the inmates to see who is watching.

Jurisdictions have several options when considering plans for new facilities and renovations, but officials in El Paso County, Colo., found that the centuries-old Panopticon design still had merit in modern times when it came time to design a new housing wing at the cramped county jail.

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Going Grande

Las Vegas is one of the crown jewels of the U.S. tourism industry. Its glitz, glamour and attractions, coupled with an unrelenting invitation to go for the jackpot, stay out late and live extravagantly, make it an international tourist destination. But as with most cities that host major tourist attractions, the polished facade hides a world of crime, drug addiction and other social ills. There’s a reason why it has earned the moniker Sin City.

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Going With the Flow

Although correctional facilities are designed to keep criminals captive for various amounts of time, they are far from stagnant. Inmates move from housing units to medical facilities and workstations, and every day new prisoners arrive, while others are released.

Large county jail systems, such as the one in Orange County, Fla., highlight the transient nature of correctional facilities. For more than 15 years, the county has received 51,000 new inmates annually, an average of about 140 a day. In 2005, the county processed 54,700 inmates.

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Bossier Parish Maximum Security Jail

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, it created immense damage to anything unfortunate enough to be in its path, but it was the subsequent flooding that wreaked the most havoc on those that remained in the city.

After levees broke at the Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Canal, some areas were flooded with several feet of water. Homes were submerged to their roof lines, businesses were gutted and thousands were stranded. The city’s correctional facilities, although built to withstand hurricane-force winds, were also subjected to widespread damage.

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U.S. Courthouse, Seattle

With a sleek symmetrical tower that stretches nearly 400 feet into Seattle’s skyline, the federal courthouse that opened in the city in 2004 is one of latest architectural gems created to improve the federal justice system aesthetically and functionally.

The $220 million facility, designed by Seattle-based architectural firm NBBJ and operated by the U.S. General Services Administration, covers a two-acre parcel in downtown Seattle. The courtroom tower has 23 floors with 18 courtrooms and 22 judicial chambers. An adjacent office building houses several federal agencies.

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Small County, Big Cost-Benefits

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association named the Banks County Jail one of the easiest jails to run per dollar in the state. The 60-bed facility represents a new wave of cost-efficient jails in Georgia’s smallest counties.

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Paradigm Shift

Juvenile correctional facilities often pose the first fork in the road for young offenders who are faced with two basic choices — continue a life of crime or conform to society and obey its laws. With the latter option in mind, the West Virginia Department of Juvenile Services and engineering firm ZMM Inc. modified a prototype for juvenile facilities midway through a construction project to provide a more rehabilitative setting for minimum-security offenders.


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Closer to Home

Canada’s federal prison system embraces the highest design principles found in corrections facilities. "We’re interested in design, but not at any cost," says Michel Blais, project leader for Correctional Service Canada. "What we’re seeing is that we can add a great design for the same price as a bad design."


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