Q&A: Inside the Planning of New Institutions Training

The Planning of New Institutions (PONI) training program hosted throughout the year by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) offers an in-depth look at the planning and preparation needed to ensure a successful correctional construction project.

Although criminal justice planners and architectural firms have the technical expertise to plan and design a new jail, it is the jurisdiction that will operate the jail long after the planners and architects are gone, according to the NIC website. Therefore, it’s important that a jail’s design meets both the operational and capacity needs of the jurisdiction and agency that will operate it. Getting owners involved throughout the planning process is critical to a project’s success, as decisions made at the early stages of the planning process will affect the remainder of the project.

The 32-hour PONI training program teaches participants the importance of in-depth planning before starting facility design, walking participants through case studies, providing a hands-on planning experience. The course focuses on the critical elements of planning a new facility, including collecting and using data, pre-architectural programming, site evaluation, project management, and determining staffing needs.

Correctional News spoke NIC representatives to learn more about the training and what participants can expect.

Q. Who is the typical PONI participant and what do they generally hope to gain from the training?

NIC: Teams of four local officials attend the PONI program. These teams are typically comprised of individuals charged with managing the current jail and contributing to the design and monitoring the construction of a new jail facility as well as officials from the jurisdiction’s legislative and/or funding bodies. While the National Institute of Corrections cannot speak to participant expectations, the intent of the program is to equip them to be informed consumers of the planning, architectural and construction services they will be responsible for acquiring.

Q. How does the PONI training help prepare participants for new jail construction projects?

NIC: The program begins with an overview of the entire facility development process from initial planning through transition and activation. Individual lessons focus on key elements of this process. Examples include, but are not limited to: generating support for the project, determining the roles and authority of various agencies and individuals, preparing a program narrative describing how the jurisdiction would like their jail facility to function, the process of developing staffing plans, site selection, project delivery and management, and planning for the transition.

Q. What resources can PONI participants access during and after the training?

NIC: In addition to the program materials provided to training participants, they are also provided with a number of articles and resources related to planning, design, and construction. All of these materials are available on the NIC website.

Read more of this interview in the July/August issue of Correctional News, available soon.