Test of Time

The Missouri Department of Corrections no longer operates the oldest prison west of the Mississippi River. The DOC recently transferred nearly 1,400 inmates from the historic Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) to the new Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC). Some could spend the rest of their lives here.


Located on the far east side of the Jefferson City metropolitan area, this state-of-the-art complex embodies design expertise, construction techniques, building materials and technology standards that DOC developed during an ambitious new facilities program. The effort produced six maximum-security men’s facilities and a new women’s prison within the past decade. JCCC completes the series and will hold 1,924 inmates, plus 28 beds in the prison’s Medical Unit. Missouri DOC presently manages approximately 31,500 inmates at 22 principal institutions across the state.

Jefferson City Correctional Center

Cost: $128 million
Opening: August 2004
Type: Maximum-Security Adult Detention/Central Food Processing
Number of Beds: 1,996

Owner: Missouri Department of Corrections
Owner Representative: Missouri Division of Design & Construction
Architect: Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK)
Associate Architect: Kennedy Associates
Engineering: Burns & McDonnell, Rubinos & Mesia
General Contractor: J.E. Dunn Construction Co.
Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings: Butler Mfg. Co.
Precast Concrete: Raider Precast (Centex)
Food Service Consultant: Cini-Little Intl.
Security Electronics Engineer: Latta Technical Services
Detention Equipment Contractor/Security Electronics Integrator: ESI

DOC dedicated JCCC with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by elected officials, department staff, project participants, media and other invited guests. Tours that day and the following weekends gave those in attendance and the general public a rare firsthand view inside a maximum-security prison before it accepted inmates.

“This facility offers a significant improvement in terms of safety, security, efficiency and cost,” Department Director Gary Kempker says of the $128-million JCCC. “It was designed so that offenders can be seen at all times, significantly increasing the safety of our officers.”

The contemporary prison stands in stark contrast to the maze of blind spots that characterized the MSP, which had a history of violence and riots.

Eliminated or dramatically reduced operational and maintenance costs over those at the old prison will offset JCCC’s $114 million in direct construction costs within an acceptable time period. MSP demanded high maintenance and more staff compared to the state’s new-generation prisons.


The St. Louis office of Hellmuth Obata & Kassebaum (HOK) served as project architects, with J.E. Dunn Construction Co., of Kansas City, Mo., as the general contractor. Both companies have designed and built correctional facilities in the past for the state. The Independence, Mo., office of Latta Technical Services served the important role of security systems subconsultant to HOK.

Two gymnasiums serve the maximum-security facility.

On the owner’s side of the project team, the Division of Design & Construction within Missouri’s Office of Administration represented spearheaded the project and worked closely with DOC and project participants during the planning, design and construction phases. In a departure from the normal arrangement, the Division signed off on a Partnering Agreement with the project’s entities and hired St. Louis-based CCS Group Inc. as both the agreement facilitator and as a third-party scheduling consultant.

CCS Group worked with stakeholders in settling minor disputes that might impose delays and in preparing comprehensive scheduling summaries for monthly meetings. The consulting firm’s related expertise in mediation and arbitration paid additional dividends. A non-binding Dispute Resolution Panel recommended by the consultants settled 12 major issues with an aggregate value worth millions of dollars. The resolved issues might have otherwise resulted in litigation.

“Although their scheduling role was something that we ordinarily do, they definitely brought a lot to the job as an interface with HOK, the state and J. E. Dunn,” said Darin Stegemoller, the project manager for the general contractor.

At a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, Edwin Bybee of the DOC’s Division of Design & Construction marveled at the accomplishments achieved following five years of planning, estimating that a million manhours went into the project. Equating the complexity of JCCC’s 43 acres to a “small town within a fence,” he reemphasized that Missouri has one of the nation’s most modern and secure correctional facilities.

The Jefferson City Correctional Center will also serve other facilities as a central cook-chill food processing plant.

The medium-secure Algoa Correctional Center, built in the 1930s, overlooks the new prison developed bottomland along the Missouri River. To elevate the low-lying site above a 500-year flood, crews cut and moved most of a hill after creating rudimentary access roads. The site preparation didn’t come easy, Stegemoller points out.

After launching work in October 2001, one of the wettest seasons on record set in and soaked Central Missouri. Relentless rain paralyzed site conditions throughout the early phases and required convoys of trucks to haul in rock to maintain access and egress to the site. The actual construction area, however, remained muck for extended periods. J. E. Dunn eventually earned a waiver for 121 “weather days” that eroded the original schedule.

“We had set a 30-month construction schedule, but since JCCC was a replacement facility we were not as pressed for completion as on other recent projects,” said Gary Claspill, senior project manager, with the Division of Design & Construction. “The contractor faced a real challenge with all that rain.”


JCCC combines prototypical concepts and specifications that have become state standards. Other elements are unique to this particular prison.

“We had the advantage of reviewing the state’s earlier prison projects and on the DOC’s experience since in operating them,” said Paul Sedovic, HOK’s project manager.

Doors offer secure delivery of food in the prison’s close-custody unit.

“JCCC was designed as a standalone facility without plans for any incremental expansion,” Sedovic says. “While planning the facility, 2,000 beds was identified as the maximum to effectively manage. If the state needs additional beds in the future, it would be more logical to just build another facility.”

The project criteria translated into a 19-building complex with components for housing, multipurpose, central services, recreation, industry, warehouse, administration and support missions. The buildings total approximately 660,000 square feet.

Gone are the high limestone wall and 15 guard towers that made MSP an intimidating landmark in Jefferson City. JCCC has only two observation towers, at the rear gate for truck deliveries and the other overlooking general population movement and recreation areas.

The towers monitor these zones and are equipped to respond with non-lethal incident suppression. For perimeter security, the DOC adopted a standard system of three parallel fence systems with a lethal electrified fence in the middle for C-5 facilities. This physical barrier is augmented by motion detection technologies.

The interior and all access/egress points are under constant surveillance by more than 100 stationary and pan/tilt/zoom color cameras. Photo-identification card readers at staffed portals and biometric handprint readers are in place at the gates. The security technologies, computerization, access control, communications and other design features should reduce staffing from the 750 employed at MSP to 690 staff at JCCC, accomplished through attrition and transfers.

There are other notable differences in the JCCC infrastructure. Buildings are all under two-stories high, versus some six- and seven-story buildings at MSP. The site plan and individual building layouts preserve lines of sight both inside and outside the structures.

The Multipurpose Building accommodates contact and no-contact visitations.

A network of chain link and no-climb fencing crowned with razor wire restrict circulation within the complex. Gone, too, are the tunnels that compromised security at MSP. Instead, all heating/cooling loops run above ground at JCCC for better security and to facilitate maintenance or any future changes.

Metal building systems became the predominant materials solution during Missouri’s recent capacity expansion. They have proven economical, ensure faster delivery and erection, and easily meet the clear span requirements sought for the larger structures. Most are hybrid variations that combine standing-seam metal-roof systems, structural framing and metal wall panel systems to varying degrees, or act in tandem with load-bearing concrete wall panel construction. Standing seam metal roof systems were used exclusively and are now the preferred specification where appropriate on all state buildings, the Division’s roofing expert pointed out.

Butler Manufacturing Company supplied the metal building systems and related engineering services for the JCCC and several other new prisons in recent years. The blue standing seam metal roofs on JCCC are an assembly consisting of the seamed metal panels, a rigid insulation barrier and an acoustical metal liner panel.

The state paid a slight premium to receive a comprehensive 20-year warranty for weather-tightness. Of added interest, JCCC buildings met recent code requirements that reflect the seismic considerations of the infamous New Madrid Fault in the southeast part of the state.

“The project bid very well,” says Sedovic. “We could adapt some standard building designs to the site whereas others, such as Central Support, tend to be unique to each prison.”


The Administration Building houses the control center, communications and staff support areas. The Multipurpose Building was planned to accommodate contact and no-contact visitations, parole hearings, private spaces where inmates can meet with attorneys, the shift captain’s office, video monitoring room and support various meetings.

Product Data

HVAC: York
Boilers: Cleaver Brooks
Plumbing & Hydronics: Bell & Gossett
Glazed Block: EE Bailey, Trenwyth Industries
Louvers/Vents: Nystrom Building Products
Paint: Sherwin Williams
Flagpoles: Morgan-Francis
CCTV: Philips
PLC: Omron
Lethal fencing: Crowley Company Inc.
Perimeter Detection: Southwest Microwave
Intercoms: Stealth Technologies Inc., Rauland
Stainless Steel Fixtures: Metcraft
Hollow-Metal Doors: Security Metal Products
Security Locks: Southern Steel
Security Glazing: Globe Amerada Glass Co.
Insulated Glass: Firecom
Wire Mesh Partitions: Standard Wire & Steel Works
Medical Security Cabinets: Safe Dimensions
Medical Equipment: Steris Corp., Fisher Scientific Co.
Cook-Chill Equipment: Groen
Refrigeration: Traulsen
Ovens: Vulcan

The plan uses the long Central Services Building to physically divide the general population side of the prison from segregated status inmates. Some resource areas are accessible from either side. The building subdivides into a food-service section, kitchen, laundry, a full-service medical unit, dental clinic, x-ray, pharmacy and even space for chemotherapy treatment.

There is a chapel, barbershop, library/education space, inmate canteen and property storage space, clothing issuance and production area for audiotapes made for the blind. The recreation resources include two gyms, weight rooms and meeting rooms.

Housing units are primarily a longstanding DOC standard design that will accept 288 inmates in 36, double-bunk cells on two tiers. This “X” shaped plan has a central pod, or “bubble”, at the four, intersecting wings. Four units based on the X-configuration are on the general population side and three on the administrative segregation side.

The prison has 350 inmates classified for administrative segregation, 144 others in protective custody, and 288 in the Intensive Therapeutic Community, Missouri’s pioneering drug and alcohol treatment program at C-5 facilities. The three housing units on the administrative segregation side are based on the same, two-tier design but some subdivide into single-bunk cells.

Even more pronounced differences are evident in Housing Unit No. 8. HOK designed this “super-max,” six-wing facility for no-contact management of the most dangerous offenders. The tapered wings enable surveillance of every cell from a central secure pod that remotely controls doors for all access/egress movements during shower periods or the minimal time individuals receive in small fenced exercise areas off the end of the wings.

The 52, single-bunk cells are sparse, with the only furnishings a concrete bunk that accepts a 2-inch pad and a concrete shelf for writing. Inmates are moved outside their cells only when fully restrained and even receive meals through a secure sally port delivery system in the doors. Two of four, rubber-lined cells are in this unit and two others in the Medical Unit.

JCCC consolidates five prison industries—clothing, license plate, furniture, engraving and graphic arts—in a large building toward the rear of the general population side. HOK designed this facility to accept future changes in the various plant operations. Another large building, but outside the fence, has sections for the regional warehouse, transportation offices and the cook/chill plant. The cook/chill facility can produce 30,000 meals a day and will serve a total of seven institutions in Missouri. Yet another building outside the fence subdivides into powerhouse, maintenance and garage areas.


Few dispute that the vacated Missouri State Penitentiary, which dates back to 1836, was long overdue for retirement. A building that entered service in 1868 was still used as a cell block for 300 inmates. Safety issues, structural deterioration and general management issues translated into nearly prohibitive operating, maintenance and staffing costs.

Numerous expansions at MSP created over a million square feet of facilities with different elevations across the uneven terrain. A maze of utility tunnels and blind spots made it virtually impossible to fully secure. At times the prison was severely overcrowded by today’s standards. A riot in 1954 left four dead, injured 33 others and caused $7 million in damage. In the wake of the bloodshed, media described MSP as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.”

Last year, the legacy continued when two inmates murdered an accomplice during a botched escape. The killers hid for three days behind a falsework in the prison’s icehouse. A corrections officer guiding a tour through the new JCCC speculated that the murdered inmate backed out of a plan to hide there and sneak out when the old prison was vacated.

Many notorious wrongdoers passed through or ended their lives at MSP. The alumni included the Depression-era gangster, “Pretty Boy” Floyd; James Earl Ray, who killed Martin Luther King a year after escaping from MSP; Bob Berdella, a sadistic serial killer of more recent times; and scores of other serious offenders.

Forty inmates met their end in the small 60-year-old gas-chamber building, including the first to die in Missouri by lethal injection. (The state has since moved all executions to the Potosi Correctional Center near St. Louis.) Few will look back on MSP with any fond memories.