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Locking up the prison business?

Geupel DeMars Correctional Systems Group finds growth industry.

Make no mistake, the people at Geupel DeMars don't like crime any more than anyone else does. But when prosecutors and judges get tougher on crooks, business booms at the Indianapolis construction company.

Geupel DeMars has quietly been making a name for itself in the business of prison construction. It has been a part of projects ranging from Midwestern county jails to a prison on New York's infamous Rikers Island. "The specialized work we really do, besides general contracting, is called 'detention equipment contracting," explains Geupel DeMars' president, Robert Navarre. "It involves furnishing and installing the unique security-related items in a prison."

Some of the things that the Geupel DeMars Correctional Systems Group installs are door-control systems, closed-circuit TV and intercom networks, fence detection systems, microwave motion detectors, fire alarms, metal detection systems, detention windows, and of course, cell doors. The division--headed up by Geupel DeMars vice president Manher Shah--works both on new prison projects and upgrades of older jails.

According to Navarre, there's plenty of prison building and renovating going on in the United States. "And there's still a need for more state facilities to get prisoners out of county jails, and still a lot of renovation work needed in many county jails," he says. Plus, the federal prison system is in the midst of a major expansion program.

How has Geupel DeMars become such a respected force in the prison industry? For one thing, the company is knowledgeable about prison security products, yet independent from the companies that actually make those products. Some other detection equipment and electronic security system specialists represent certain manufacturers exclusively, which Geupel DeMars claims can limit the options they can offer clients. Geupel DeMars also can take charge of a job from the initial planning stages through final installation, which makes the company easy to deal with.

The company's expertise has led to contracts at numerous prisons. One of its bigger jobs was the 1990 installation of detention equipment at Nursery Beacon, a new 1,000-person prison on Rikers Island, one of the more notorious lockups still in use. "There are seven or eight prisons on the island," Navarre says. "It's a wonderful place to visit but a terrible place to live."

In Indiana, Geupel DeMars Correctional Systems Group is working on facilities in New Albany and Kokomo, and has worked on jails in Crown Point, Jeffersonville, Lafayette, Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis.

For those who wish, Geupel DeMars also can handle general contracting work for jail construction. Navarre says that line of work can be challenging, because correctional facilities must be built to a rigid and highly specific set of standards, designed not only to make them secure but also immune to lawsuits from disgruntled prisoners. In truth, however, building a jail is similar in many ways to building a hotel. "I know of one company that does a lot of hotels and jail work," Navarre says. "They tell people they're in the hospitality business."

Navarre admits that the prison business has turned out to be better than anyone ever imagined it could be. "It's a market that surprises us in how it's continuing," he says. "The demand is--unfortunately from a social aspect--still strong."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Curtis Magazine Group, 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:Geupel DeMars Correctional Systems Group
Author:Kaelble, Steve
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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