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How direct supervision jail design affects inmate behavior management.

One of the ironies discovered by most operators of traditional jails is that inmates frequently are rewarded inversely to their behavior. The most striking example is the inmate who realizes he is certain to move from a crowded cell to a solitary one if he acts in a way that is dangerous or threatening to those around him. Our "punishment" system tells inmates that if they don't like the conditions, they should just break the rules and have their lack of privacy problem taken care of with solitary confinement.

Such circumstances make jails dangerous places for inmates and staff alike. The demands on building technology and the resources needed to manage it increase geometrically as the building gets "harder" and the supervision of its inmates gets less direct. Additionally, the expense attending the traditional jail is enormous both in terms of the capital expenditure required to construct a "hard" environment and the ongoing expense of staffing and operating it.

This dilemma, and a serious desire to rectify it, is what motivated the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department to plan and construct a direct supervision jail. As the inn-keeper well knows, you can expect a different level of behavior from your clientele if the floors of your establishment are covered with sawdust as opposed to carpet or tile. Similarly, the jail operator can better predict and supervise inmates if the jail's physical environment promotes adherence to the rules instead of destructive or menacing behavior. With this in mind, San Joaquin County engaged a Los Angeles architectural firm to design the new Sousa Justice Center and Zunino Sheriff's Operations Center and Jail Complex in California's Central Valley.

Before a commitment could be made to build what officers and citizens alike considered a "soft" jail, a certain amount of research had to be done. By analyzing the lessons learned from direct supervision jails as well as traditional jails, the design team was able to ensure that the facility would be constructed in a way that would encourage appropriate inmate behavior.

One important factor the design committee kept in mind is that direct supervision relies on specially trained staff interacting with inmates to create a positive environment. This reduces the reliance on traditional jail hardware and security systems for inmate management. In this case, the staffing efficiency goal established a ratio of 64 inmates to one sworn staff officer in this new 744-bed facility.

At San Joaquin, as in most direct supervision jails, inmate classification is based on predictable behavior rather than on specific crimes. The 512-bed "mini-jail" compound is comprised of eight housing modules. These facilities are unique in that they are actually small, functional, independent jails equipped with their own administrative staffs, transportation facilities and visiting centers. When paired, they form four housing units.

General population accounts for three of these 128-bed buildings, and a separate 128-bed housing building for segregated populations is the fourth. Each of the general population units has 64 "dry" sleeping rooms with access to individually compartmentalized toilet and shower facilities.

The design of the dayrooms is based on the "pan-optican" concept, which provides the floor officers, located in the dayrooms, with 180-degree sightlines. This gives the officers excellent visual control over all inmates, whether in the dayroom, program areas, recreation yard or shower-toilet areas.

In the general population units, construction materials used include wood, carpet, drywall and dormitory locksets--a less formidable, more humane departure from the indestructible concrete and steel walls and high security hardware typically used in traditional correctional settings.

The single most important lesson learned about the move from any containment-oriented jail to a management-oriented jail was that inmates have the same feelings about rights, self preservation, comfort and all other human needs as does any other group of people. If they are treated humanely and removed from the negative influences that drive them toward criminal behavior, they will react more positively.

If inmates see the jail as just an extension of their street environment, the brutality, gang activity, drug dealing and vandalism will continue. If, however, they are placed in a normal living environment, they will guard their right to remain there by conforming to whatever behavior staff requires.

It follows, then, that what initially appears to be a soft jail is actually a much more structured, disciplined environment for the inmate. The inmate must conform to facility rules, not the inmate code, in order to remain in the setting that best provides for his or her needs. In many cases, this is the first time these inmates are given an opportunity to comply with meaningful programs for behavior education and leisure time. More important, it is the first time in their lives that the cycle of drugs and violence has been interrupted.

This is the single most unique feature of any direct supervision jail over the traditional jail. One can't help thinking that this improved living environment and the simplest concepts of human dignity are the factors that explain why direct supervision jails work.

Test projects at three separate direct supervision facilities within San Joaquin County's sentenced site continue to be successful. The custody staff of the sheriff's department has experienced virtually no graffiti, destruction or acts of violence in these test projects.

It was this national and local background that led the design team to totally abandon traditional solutions to jail operations problems. This confident step toward the future is what allowed the transition team the freedom to design a building that better meets the needs of the county, the sheriff's department and the local criminal justice system.

Jack Turturici, a sergeant with the San Joaquin County Sheriffs Department, served on the transition team during the design of the new county jail. Gregory Sheehy, AIA, of Dworsky Associates, Architects and Planners in Los Angeles, was the project architect for the jail.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Annual Issue: Architecture, Construction and Design
Author:Turturici, Jack; Sheehy, Gregory
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:969
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