Q&A: Treatment-Based Design Isn’t Just Business, It’s Personal

Terms like “treatment-based design” are part of the everyday parlance of those who work within the corrections eco-system. For some, it’s mere jargon; for others, it’s a philosophy. In the latter camp is Scott Maloney, president of K2M Design, Inc., which boasts a staff of more than 60 professionals in nine locations across the U.S.

The hub at Cuyahoga County Community Based Corrections Facility in Cleveland was designed with treatment in mind.

With such emphasis on nomenclature, it’s prudent to define these terms, which Maloney was game to do in a recent phone interview. Treatment-based design, in practice, “is a facility where the focus is less on incarceration and more on treatment and healing,” said Maloney, who has worked with Ohio’s Lorain/Medina Community Based Correctional Facility as well as Akron, Ohio’s nonprofit juggernaut Oriana House, among other projects. “They’re typically focused on concepts of reducing recidivism and managing addiction so that one comes out cleaner and healthier in terms of lifestyle.”

Read on to learn how Maloney’s treatment-based design philosophy influences his correctional projects.

Q: How does this philosophy manifest in design?

Maloney: In a treatment-based facility, there tend to be a lot more group spaces, they have several offices focused on psychology, psychiatry, counseling and treatment-based programs — things to help you physically and mentally as well as engage with other individuals that are going through a similar program with you.

Q: Does this engender empathy and community?

Maloney: There are a lot of agencies on the for-profit and non-profit sides that offer a wide array of treatment-based facilities with all sorts of services for the community. From the perspective of incarceration, people will be put into community-based treatment programs, whether they’re run by municipality or a nonprofit, the healing and the coping mechanisms come not just from yourself but from being around everyone else for a period of time.

Q: Some of these programs operate on a “step” process, so how does that work?

Maloney: Initially, it’s very program-focused; then, at the end of the program, maybe you acquire additional freedoms and privileges that weren’t unavailable when you first enter…You might not be confined to the specific housing unit that you’re in. You might gain access to more of the recreation spaces, more of the programmatic spaces, something that’s maybe a little special like a healing garden and therapeutic spaces that are on the exterior of the building.

Q: Or choosing a TV channel, perhaps?

Maloney: Little things that show a level of respect to an incarcerated individual and help them grow and build their confidence, so they can go back out in the world and beat what their challenges were so hopefully they don’t repeat themselves.

Q: Is working in this milieu inherently satisfying?

Maloney: Just from my personal perspective, I like working on these types of facilities because I like thinking about the mental health impact architects, engineers and designers can have on any incarcerated population. And that relates to youth (both boys and girls); that relates to females and that relates to males. Long ago, when you put somebody into a tiny box and you throw them in a cage, you get exactly what you deserve when those people become caged animals.

Q: Why are treatment-based facilities important to you personally?

Maloney: I think we have an opportunity to positively make an impact in their lives — even if it’s one in 10 or one in 50; it doesn’t matter, it’s worthwhile. There’s something that’s positive that comes out of it. And the architecture is one component of that. I think that there’s proven value in doing that at all population levels. If we have the ability to reduce our prison population and to dynastically change some challenges associated with certain families across the United States, then God bless them.