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Building facilities to allow for future technological improvements.

More often than not, detention facility construction costs turn county commissioners pale, create a feeling of disbelief among the electorate and cause budget directors to frown as they pull out their beloved red pencils. They cut and slash with results that would make a pirate proud.

Let's see. Computerized booking, inmate tracking, transportation data base. Sounds complex and expensive. Let's just do it the way we always have. CUT. What does this mean: remote arraignment and docket data equipment? This is a jail, not a courthouse. SLASH. An automated commissary system, a watch tour system? What are the correctional officers being hired to do? CUT-CUT. SLASH-SLASH. There, now the budget works.

Yes, the budget works and the facility will be built. And if the facility is lucky, perhaps sometime in the future some additional dollars will become available to purchase and install newly developed systems and technology. The question is, did the correctional administrators plan into the original construction the flexibility necessary to accommodate the retrofit? Or will they now find themselves in the position of having to make costly structural changes to this mass of concrete and steel, doing now what could have been done so easily during construction?

The answer is, an agency can cost-effectively retrofit new and emerging technologies to existing detention facilities as long as it puts in the time and effort during planning and design to accommodate the desired end product. That can be done by providing, during construction, the appropriate conduit and cabling that reflects the future desired operation.

For instance, let's look at the remote video arraignment requirement for the new detention facility in Leon County, Fla. In order to reduce inmate movement and eliminate the need for escort officers, it was determined that video arraignments should be done from within each of the eight housing modules, instead of bringing all inmates to a central video arraignment area.

However, eight different areas constitute too large an expenditure for the budget. So the design concept detailed the use of one non-contact visitation room in each module, outfitted with the appropriate conduit, cabling, jacks, speakers and microphones to accommodate a camera and monitor on a rolling cart, which serve all of the modules. Therefore, with the conduit and cabling already planned and installed as part of the original contract, future procurement of additional cameras and equipment easily will plug into the "new" video arraignment spaces in each module.

In another example at Leon County, conduit-generated flexibility allowed the staff to easily relocate dayroom officer stations as operational requirements changed. What started out as a free-standing touch-screen security control, plugged into the floor conduit, evolved over time to also accommodate an officer's station and a mail distribution center for inmates. These changes evolved in the realization that the original location was operationally inappropriate to the newly evolved functions, a situation that could have caused some problems had the design not provided for additional conduit to facilitate change. The desk was simply unplugged, moved to an operationally efficient location and replugged into the conduit at that location.

Other institutions also have begun to recognize the importance of providing technological flexibility capability during the design phases of a project. For example, officials at the new Mecklenburg County Correctional Center in Charlotte, N.C., have diligently addressed operations by providing rough-in conduit to accommodate their future plans. They envision a sophisticated inmate data management system, which will provide additional security, increase safety and maximize efficiency.

The system to be installed will provide a cashless, couponless inmate tracking capability, which works off a bar code wristband worn by inmates. Initially, the system will target the commissary operation, where purchases are triggered by a scanned wristband, debits are made from inmates' accounts and re-orders of supplies are done by a preprogrammed stock management system. The sheriff's department's goal is to explore other options for the system, including inmate access control, inmate property management and inmate funds accounting. To do this, however, requires that appropriate provisions be made now to allow the additional technologies to be used in the future.

What you can do in the future is directly related to what is being done today. Administrators must continue to recognize the conflict between the endless array of technology and systems available today as compared with the tightening of available dollars. Owners must look beyond today's current methods of facility operation and plan for the future.

Lt. Curt McKenzie is transition team coordinator for the Leon County Detention Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

W. Douglas Fitzgerald, C.P.P., is corporate director of security planning for Hansen Lind Meyer, an architecture, engineering and planning firm.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Annual Issue: Architecture, Construction and Design
Author:McKenzie, Curt; Fitzgerald, W. Douglas
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Technology selection is your responsibility.
Next Article:Fast-track construction, high technology help stretch today's corrections dollars.

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