Design considerations for new facilities: integrating new and emerging technologies.

Author:Box, William

As new and emerging technologies demonstrate increasing potential to impact the way correctional facilities evolve, architects and engineers must identify and evaluate the effects those technologies will have on traditional concepts of correctional design at various levels. Then, that personnel must provide the proper solutions during the design process to most effectively integrate the new technologies into the overall operational plan and physical plant. Design considerations that technological improvements influence in correctional planning can be categorized into two main groups: the systems whose functions enhance the operation of the facility; and the materials and equipment whose properties improve its physical environment. New technologies developed for either category are most likely to be implemented to benefit one or more traditional objectives of a correctional facility. Those objectives are: to provide security for the public from its convicted offenders; provide safety for the staff and offenders inside the facility; and ensure the community that the facility will operate as efficiently as possible.

Recent innovations in systems technologies, such as inmate tracking, biometric identification, and video surveillance and recording, have provided more security through better recognition of location and proximity of inmates, more safety by sharing and disseminating information effectively, and better efficiency through less reliance on physical escorts. Recent innovations in materials and equipment technologies, such as enhanced perimeter deterrent systems, improved glazing systems, and sophisticated metal, drug and explosives scanners, have provided better security by reducing the risk of escape, more safety through effective observation of inmates, and more efficiency by keeping the flow of contraband in and out of the facility in check with less direct staff involvement.

And, if handled properly, integrating new technologies into the design of a correctional facility can also promote less traditional objectives such as creating a more humane environment, addressing social and psychological rehabilitation, and providing a better program of reform through vocational and academic education. To achieve success in these ways, the design team along with the facility operators must be able to evaluate the way the architecture and operations of the facility can evolve from their traditional responses to security, safety and efficiency objectives. Simply put, the design team should determine not only what needs to be added for the new technology in order to enhance safety, security and efficiency, but also what can be modified with the new technology in order to promote reform, rehabilitation and a more humane setting.


An example of this notion is the man-down technology. This system is a form of duress alarm worn by staff and, upon activation, reports their location and condition to an annunciation device in a secure location. To integrate this system into the design of a facility, the architect and engineers must consider...

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