New Horizons: A View From the Ridge

After more than 10 years of planning and pauses, Department of Corrections officials unveiled the $190 million Deer Ridge Correctional Institution as the template for the future of corrections in Oregon — a future shaped by growing pressures and shifting challenges, but one defined by the promise of new horizons in programming, sustainability and design.

Covering approximately 200 acres of a 453-acre site in central Oregon, the Deer Ridge complex encapsulates two discrete facilities. The 644-bed minimum-security facility features two four-pod dormitory housing units with private shower and toilet facilities.

The 1,223-bed medium-security facility has seven housing units — cells and dormitories — and includes a two-pod, 120-bed segregation unit where inmates with behavioral or disciplinary problems are held in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day.

“This project incorporates some earth-shaking elements for the world of corrections,” says Bill Bursma, AIA, principal at project architect DLR Group.

“For the last number of years, the Oregon DOC has attempted to create environmental innovations, evolve correctional values and programming, and achieve operational efficiencies, and the whole world wants to look at the projects here,” Bursma says.  The complex is designed to create a physical and functional community that will engender and encourage the community atmosphere and mind-set that lie at the heart of the DOC’s programmatic values and objectives for inmate rehabilitation.

In addition, Deer Ridge embodies Oregon’s efforts to address the state’s growing population of special-needs inmates, says Doug Young, DOC new prison construction program coordinator.

Specifically designed to accommodate substance abuse and mental health programming, Deer Ridge will function as the specialized treatment center for the state prison system, Young says.

Incorporating a dedicated geriatric unit, Deer Ridge DRCI also finds itself at the vanguard of Oregon’s efforts to grapple with the graying of its prison population and the growing number of elderly, infirm, non-ambulatory or long-term-care inmates.

Designed to LEED Silver standards, the project also demonstrates Oregon’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 

While the entire complex is surrounded by a 15-foot security fence, a second no-climb fence, augmented with microwave motion detection, encircles the medium-security facility.  The complex features a central observation and control tower located on the third floor of a gatehouse. Incorporating windows on all four sides, similar to an air-traffic control tower, the control room affords security staff 360-degree lines of sight and a roofscape vantage point across the entire complex.

The medium-security facility incorporates 400 surveillance camera installations, while secondary control rooms monitor each pair of housing pods under a direct-supervision model.

“Deer Ridge has immense correctional value because while inmates are here first and foremost to be corrected, they are treated in way that helps them realize that they are people with the opportunity and ability to get outside, to view the horizon and to live life as though in society,” Bursma says.

Village Vision Drives Design

“What intrigued us about this project was the degree of forward thinking and the department’s correctional vision,” Bursma says. “Oregon is offering a lot of progressive and innovative ideas and these initiatives travel to other jurisdictions and states.”

The task at hand for the DLR design team and general contractors, Hoffman Construction Co. and Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co., was to interpret and enhance that vision and transform it into a three-dimensional reality.

The design reflects a condensed-prison format in which housing units, day rooms, programming space, and service, work and recreational space are situated to form and flow around a community mall-type footprint.

“The community mall creates the feeling of a city-street environment to accustom inmates to life in society,” Bursma says.

Inmates circulate through different facilities to access a multitude services and programs from laundry and dining to treatment, education and work.

A series of decentralized exercise yards that connect each pair of housing units is designed to increase the amount of time inmates can experience the outside environment.

“The environmental concept of the project is to provide inmates with a window on to the horizon rather than warehousing them in a tin can,” Bursma says.

Holistic Strategy, Singular Vision

Incorporating windows on all four sides, the watchtower control room affords staff a complex-roofscape vantage point and 360-degree lines of sight.

Medium-security housing units incorporate a steel decking and open-web, steel joist system, overlaid with insulation and exterior roofing materials.

The minimum-security facility is based on an adapted modular wood-frame DLR prototype design that features exposed heavy-timber beams.

The modular, hydronic heating system services buildings throughout the entire complex in a closed loop.

Treatment space and programming at Deer Ridge are designed to facilitate a therapeutic community process, which is a key part of the DOC’s strategy to help inmates transition successfully back into society.

“In emphasizing, enabling, fostering and reinforcing pro-social thinking and behavior, we see Deer Ridge as the opposite of the criminal university,” says Kevin Hormann, DOC assistant superintendent transitional services.

The minimum-security facility has 12 classrooms and a computer laboratory, where inmates pursue GED courses and adult education and ESL classes provided by Central Oregon Community College, of Bend, Ore. Inmates housed in the medium-security facility can also avail of educational, job and cognitive and life skills programming.

“For a number of years, Oregon has worked toward lowering the risk for future criminal behavior by providing inmates with the necessary tools and skills and by striving to hold them accountable for their behavior,” Hormann says.

However, rehabilitative programming cannot function successfully without the participation and contribution of correctional officers.

“The entire system at Deer Ridge is set up to empower inmates to become co-agents for change and our security staff play an essential role as part of the broader therapeutic community that surrounds and supports inmates’ behavioral change,” Hormann says.
Programming emphasizes counseling and classes in pro-social thinking patterns, problem solving, life- skills and parenting designed to help inmates feel and act like productive responsible citizens after re-entry.

Skills for Life

Portland-based Pathfinders of Oregon, which has provided rehabilitation programs for more than 20 years, will provide cognitive skills programming at Deer Ridge. Programs are designed to help inmates replace ingrained anti-social behaviors by developing the pro-social thinking patterns and problem-solving skills necessary to be successful members of society.
Modeled on social learning theory, programs incorporate self-assessment tools and a variety of other teaching techniques that actively engage inmates in the learning process, officials say. Teaching methods engender respect for self and others, and allow inmates to experience success and positive reinforcement for responsible behavior.

Pathfinder programs focus on teambuilding, communications, problem-solving, values clarification, anger-, time- and stress- management, life planning, and cognitive and behavioral skills.

DOC correctional counselors will also conduct a range of classes in essential post-release life skills designed to help inmates become and remain productive citizens. Classes will focus on areas, such as managing personal and financial obligations and adhering to terms of parole.
“The complexity of the situation inmates face, with so many components and issues as they transition back into society, makes it a highly problematic journey where successful solutions and outcomes are difficult to achieve,” Hormann says.

A preliminary trades apprenticeship program is also being developed to help inmates earn marketable trades skills and industry-recognized credentials in the carpentry, plumbing and electrical fields. Already in operation at other DOC prisons, the program aims to prepare inmates for additional trade-specific training and commencement of full apprenticeship after release.


Security Equipment: CML Specialties Inc.
Security Systems:  Engineered Control Systems
Metal Detectors: Alexander Enterprises
HVAC: Cascade Heating
HVAC Control Systems: Clima-Tech Corp.
Electrical: Aspen Ridge Electric/Gowdy Bros. Electric
Plumbing: Interstate Mechanical
Fire Suppression Sprinklers: High Desert Security & Fire/Western States Fire Protection/All American Fire
Food Service Equipment: Gill Group Inc.
Laundry Equipment: Pacific Fabricare Systems
Site Work: KN EXCO, Inc.
Concrete Block Masonry: Davidson’s Masonry
Landscape and Irrigation: Dennis Seven Dees Landscaping
Asphalt Paving: Hooker Creek
Fencing: Viking National Fence
Concrete Tables, Benches, Trash Cans: Petersen Manufacturing Co.
Insulation: Insulation Contractors of Oregon 
GLB: Wood Tech Services
I-Joist: Standard Structures
Roofing Membrane: Eagle Roofing
Flashing and Sheet Metal: JICA Construction
Joint Sealants: McKenzie Waterproofing Inc.
Hollow Metal Doors, Frames and Hardware: Chown Grand Openings
Security Access Doors: Nystrom Inc.
Overhead Coiling Doors/Grills: Crawford Roll-Lite Door
Vinyl Windows: Miller Lumber
Glass & Glazing: Alpine Glass Co.
Skylights: Architectural Specialties
Projection Screens/Louver Blinds: Triple I Interiors
Gypsum Wallboard: Pine Mountain Acoustical
Resinous Floor System and Special Coatings: Pioneer Waterproofing
Flooring: Thomas Kay Textiles
Tate Access Floor: Bank and Office Interiors
FRP Wall Systems: Trojan Wall Products Inc.
Interior/Exterior Paint: Aurora Painting
Visual Display Units: PBS Supply Co.
Open File Shelving: TAB Northwest
Toilet Compartments, Cubicle Curtains and Tracks: WH Cress Co.
Operable Partitions: Interior Technology Inc.
Dock Levelers/Storage Shelving: Northwest Handling Inc.
Toilet Accessories/Literature Racks: North Country Building Specialties
Illuminators: Carr Corp.
Diagnostic System: MedSupplier
Medical Casework: ISEC Inc.
Control Console/P-Lam Casework: Hillstrom Cabinets Inc.

Courtesy of Oregon DOC

Inmates will have the opportunity to gain experience and skills by working with physical plant staff, who will act as coaches and teachers, providing training in various trades as they involve inmates in facility maintenance and plant operations.

“It’s about the whole package — facilities, programming, staff and inmates — with all the parts and people working together toward the same end,” Hormann says.

With Deer Ridge’s commercial standard kitchen and food service facilities, inmates will also have the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of culinary areas, such as baking and food-service management.

Special Needs

The design of the complex was adapted to accommodate inmates with mental health and substance abuse issues and the specialized programming dedicated to their demands and needs.

The minimum-security facility provides 212 dormitory beds for inmates with mental health and substance abuse issues — two pods house inmates with substance abuse problems, one pod is devoted to inmates with mental health issues and one is designated as a combined mental health and substance abuse unit — while 224 beds at the medium-security facility will be dedicated to specialized treatment programs.

Chemical-dependency certified counselors from CiviGenics, of Marlborough, Mass., will provide comprehensive substance abuse programming targeted toward inmates housed in the minimum-security facility.

CiviGenics operates treatment programs at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, and in 11 other states, including California, Florida and Illinois.

“The minimum-security facility is where our high-dollar investment is focused,” Hormann says.

Medium-security inmates with mental health issues and substance abuse problems will be housed in two 112-bed cell-housing pods, designated as mental health transition units. The medium-security units are designed to provide a more sheltered environment for inmates who would have difficulty in general population.

“Offenders who are self-medicating are not stable when they arrive, so we provide an extra level of protection to enhance their stabilization during this initial period before they transition into the general population,” Hormann says.


Facility Name: Deer Ridge Correctional Facility
Type: Medium & Minimum Correctional Facility
Construction Budget: $190 million
Number of Beds: 1,867
Area: 534,000 square feet
Start Date: March 2005
Completion Date: November 2007
Owner/Operator: Oregon Department of Corrections
Owner Representative: Doug Young, New Prison Construction Program Coordinator
Project Manager: Eric Manus, DOC
Owner Consultant: Heery International
Architect: DLR Group
General Contractor: Hoffman Construction Co.
Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co.

Courtesy of Oregon DOC

In an effort to develop and maintain continuity of care after re-entry for inmates with mental health issues, Deer Ridge will place a major emphasis on building bridges between corrections staff and community mental health professionals.

“Making connections and establishing support networks in the communities enhances monitoring of inmates, provides continuity of care and ensures maintenance of treatment and medication regimen,” Hormann says.

Accommodating special-needs inmates in more protective settings dedicated to their specific demands emerged as a primary theme of the Deer Ridge project, which is the first of the state’s 14 prisons to incorporate a geriatric housing unit, officials say.

Situated in the medium-security facility, the 91-bed unit features a combination of single and double bunk beds. The modified dormitory is configured for geriatric care and can accommodate standard hospital beds for inmates confined to bed due to long-term health issues.

“Inmates in the upper bunks act as care aids for the others in a buddy-style system,” says Kevin Hormann, assistant superintendent transitional services at Deer Ridge.

The medical center features a trauma room, several exam rooms, a four-chair dental facility and an X-Ray room. The center’s 8-bed infirmary consists of three single-bed cells and a five-bed ward.

Beds at Deer Ridge will be opened in phases to match DOC housing needs. The complex will house approximately 600 inmates by March 2008, officials say. Officials expect the population to increase to almost 1,000 inmates during 2010, and reach the full capacity of 1,887 by 2013.

Greening the Big House

While DOC officials do not intend to register Deer Ridge for USGBC certification, the complex is designed to LEED Silver standards, with Eugene-based architectural and engineering firm Solarc acting as LEED consultants on the project.

The design team incorporated skylights wherever possible to leverage natural light and integrated a lighting control system to enhance lighting efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Energy-efficient shrouded and down lighting was incorporated throughout the complex to make it dark-skies compliant.

To further reduce energy consumption, laundry facilities use heat-recovery wheels to recover heat from drier exhausts, while machines are configured to reuse water over multiple operation cycles.

Due to the desert climate, landscaping throughout the complex is designed to be brown mode and irrigation free. Arid landscaping techniques emphasizing the use of native drought-resistant plants and grasses were employed to eliminate irrigation needs and reduce overall water consumption.

The HVAC system is well suited to the demands of the corrections industry and the rigors of the desert climate of central Oregon, which experiences less than 10 percent humidity during the summer.

The system, which incorporates carbon dioxide monitors to enhance efficiency and reduce system load, combines direct and indirect evaporative cooling to maintain optimal levels of cooling and humidity. The indirect cycle cools without introducing moisture, while the direct cycle introduces humidity at controlled levels.

DLR conducted laboratory testing of a full-scale mock-up of the HVAC system prior to installation to insure that it would perform to specification.

“When you have an environment with a lot of people in close proximity for extended periods, you want to move large amounts of air, and this system functions well with a lot of air changes,” Bursma says.

The complex also features a hydronic heating system, which includes an installation of eight small boiler units housed in a central boiler plant that services buildings throughout the entire complex in a closed loop.

The system’s modular design enhances efficiency by providing the ability to trim system load and output as necessary or desired by taking individual boiler units temporarily off line during periods of low demand.

The system, which conducts heat via liquid, is more efficient than systems that use air, Bursma says. Generating heat from a central plant is also more efficient than using multiple decentralized points, he says.

An integrated building management system, which controls plant operations for the entire complex enhances operational efficiency.

Challenges and Impact

In order to facilitate special-needs access throughout complex, the design team had to overcome several challenges posed by topography. The original site exhibited a cross slope of more than 5 percent.

Workers excavated between 500,000 and 600,000 cubic yards of soil during the preconstruction phase as the site was terraced to reduce the gradient on pathways to a 3 percent slope, Young says.

In addition, the sewer system had to be designed and configured to overcome 202 feet of vertical lift as it negotiated the surrounding terrain. The complex’s drainage system was reinforced to accommodate heavy water runoff associated with the climate and site.
“Bringing in the utilities needed for the prison was also a challenge,” Young says. The site was three miles from the nearest infrastructure.

Local authorities often bare the burden of such infrastructure expansions in order to attract prison developments. However, state law requires the DOC to pay the fair and reasonable cost of infrastructure upgrades and expansions.

“Local authorities and taxpayers can reap the economic rewards of the development without being forced to bare the burden of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs,” Young says.

The DOC also incorporated an outdoor firearms training range at Deer Ridge with six 100-yard and 12 50-yard shooting lanes, which is open to other jurisdictions and agencies.

“The region lacked appropriate firearms training and competency qualification facilities and the range represents just one tangible example of the benefits and resources the development has brought to the region,” Young says.

Dollars and Sense

Designed to International Building Code standards for institutional-group I-3 occupancy — restraint, detention or security facilities for more than five persons — the medium-security facility features steel and concrete construction models recently authorized for use in security settings.

Housing units incorporate a steel decking and open-web, steel joist system, overlaid with insulation and exterior roofing materials, while unit walls are constructed of double-skin steel and concrete in-fill. Unit design and construction delivers a comparatively low-cost roofing solution, Bursma says.

In contrast, the minimum-security facility is composed of housing units that feature modular wood-framed construction. The exposed heavy-timber construction of the adapted DLR prototype design delivers a cost-effective solution for minimum-security housing components, Bursma says.

First used by the DOC at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, in Wilsonville, the prototype is designed to yield staffing efficiencies, Young says. Beds are arranged around the perimeter of the housing pod to facilitate direct supervision.

“The DOC is big on learning lessons from previous experience and is always looking for innovative design, construction and operational efficiencies and economies in their projects,” Bursma says.