South Central Correctional Center

Forms are maneuvered into place to create the second floor. Crews make final adjustments in preparation for concrete pours.

Cast-in place construction helped this prototype prison open in nearly record time while on a budget.

With prison populations still rising and overcrowding a serious issue for many states, the last thing correctional departments want to see is their budgets cut-again. But, with tighter budgets as much a reality as inmates sleeping in prison gymnasiums for lack of secure space elsewhere in a facility, many states are increasing their reliance on prototype facilities and fast-track construction practices.

Such is the case with Missouri’s South Central Correctional Center in the small town of Licking, population: 1,500. The new, 1,596-bed maximum-security prison is one of two new facilities based on a prototype design by DLR Group, and it is the first facility to be site-adapted by the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Working off plans that had already been produced, the state saved money on design and development and was able to move inmates into the facility in a considerably short timeframe.

Completed in June 2000, the $60 million, nine-building complex required only about 10 months for construction documents while construction was completed in approximately 15 months.


Owner/Operator: Department of Corrections, state of Missouri
Owner Representative: Gary Armstrong
Project Manager: Fru-Con Construction Corp.
Architect: DLR Group (Dana Larson Roubal & Associates)
Construction Manager/Contractor: Fru-Con Construction Corp.
Food Service: Santee Becker
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: Smith & Boucher
Civic Engineer: Lundan Corporation; Tech Service
Structural Engineer: HNTB

The construction process moved along at its rapid pace and somewhat bargain price for an additional reason: construction manager and contractor Fru-Con Construction Corp, based in St. Louis, utilized a cast-in-place Symons Room Tunnel Forming System to construct the six, two-tiered housing units. When plans were being developed for the facility, the Missouri Department of Corrections specified that several construction options be offered so the builder could select concrete block, pre-cast concrete, or cast-in-place concrete options. Fru-Con chose tunnel forming because the repetitive construction method speeds the process along while reducing costs.

Room Tunnel Forming System

Fru-Con first arrived on site in August 1998, and working with about 60 subcontractors and suppliers, started construction of the 384,500-square-foot complex. Their choice of tunnel forming is unusual in this Midwestern state, according to Symons, which reports that most tunnel forming projects are concentrated in the South and Southeast. The South Central facility is its northern-most project.

After the steel is set, a form box is lowered into position and then secured in place. With the tunnel forming system, cells are formed in eight to ten cell units.

The Symons Room Tunnel Forming system was chosen because it is designed to maximize productivity, with cells formed in eight to 10 units-they set and strip as one-piece-allowing an entire floor to be competed at a time; mechanical chases and other components are integrated within the forming system. Larry Stout, DLR Group project manager and designer, reported that the tunnel forming system was flexible enough to match the original cell plan from the prototype, while also adapting to a triangle cell chase. The triangular chase was incorporated instead of the so-called "doghouse" style, utilized at Crossroads Correctional Center, the first facility based on the prototype.

Construction on South Central began with site preparation and excavation work. A slab was poured and then steelwork and doorframes were put in place. At this point, the tunnel forming system is utilized, with form boxes secured in place after being lowered into position over the steel reinforcing. Stout said the tunnel forming allowed the amount of reinforcing to be slightly reduced without sacrificing security-while resulting in materials and labor savings. Coordinating all the work at this junction is challenging because of the number of people involved-the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other workers.


Pre-engineered Structural Frame and Metal Roof Systems: Butler Manufacturing Company
Pre-cast Concrete Fabricator: Prestressed Casting Company
Security Equipment: Southern Steel
Curtainwall and Entrances: Vistawall Flooring:
Armstrong Security Glass: Viracon
Security Locks: Southern Steel
Security Windows: Built-Rite
Security Cell Doors: Built-Rite

Once the forms are set, the key to minimizing construction time is to turn over a bank of tunnels everyday; the reusable forms are removed in the morning, the next level of steel is set, and a second tier of forms is maneuvered into position. In order for the schedule to be adhered to, the concrete and its curing process was continually monitored to ensure the forms could be removed and the first floor was strong enough to support a second one. Each floor required 44 concrete pours for a total of 88 pours completing the tunnel formwork. Finished cell measures approximately eight feet by 12 feet.

Once all cell units were completed, Fru-Con finished the buildings by constructing wall and roof structures. Buildings have pre-cast exteriors. Besides an accelerated construction schedule and reduced materials and labor costs, the tunnel forming system helps create a more secure facility by eliminating the mortar joints present in concrete block walls. "Elimination of the mortar joints potentially reduces possible openings in the wall that can be used by inmates to hide contraband or create a source of mortar particles that could be dug out and used as a weapon when packed into a sock," Stout explained.

Facility: The prototype Design

South Central Correctional Center occupies a 208-acre site; 57 acres are within the secure perimeter and 60 acres were left undeveloped. And, while it’s based on the Crossroads prototype, a minor variation exists between the two facilities: a three-story guard tower was built at South Central.

An overview of the complex as illustrated by the DLR Group. Five housing units are situated within the secure perimeter; a sixth unit, the work cadre, does not have a maximum-security designation.

The prototype plan was designed to maximize the efficiency of the staff-to-inmate ratio, a criteria that was accomplished, according to DLR Group’s Stout, by "planning the housing units such that each of the four wings are visible from the control room. In turn, the housing units were located around the yard with the guard tower centrally located in order to monitor all inmate activities within the yard and out to the perimeter fence."

Working off prototype plans saved the state money on design and development. The entrance to South Central Correctional Center is identical to the one at Crossroads.

Five of the facility’s six housing units are general population, offering a total of 720 beds, while the sixth is a 60-single-bed administrative segregation housing unit. The complex also includes a central services building, an administration building, a vehicle/equipment repair building, a general maintenance building, and a central plant. As expected of a new, maximum-security facility, South Central Correctional Facility has a state-of-the-art security system. It’s equipped with a fully-integrated, digital security monitoring system operated by touch screen technology.

Outside the perimeter fence is a 96-bed minimum-security housing unit (work cadre) that functions as a halfway house for inmates approaching release. "The work cadre inmates do not mix with the general population inmates," says Stout. "They are transported to and from paying jobs in the community so they become acclimated to living within the community."

The Need for Beds

The South Central Correctional Facility is one of several new facilities built in response to a growing inmate population during the administration of the late Governor Mel Carnahan. When the facility opened in mid-2000, the state had added almost 15,000 new beds in seven years. And since 1993, the state’s inmate population has nearly doubled. It’s for those reason that states like Missouri use prototype plans and cost-efficient construction processes such as the Symons Tunnel Forming System: it helps them keep up with demand.