Perfecting Prison Design

Thirty years ago, facing overpopulation in its correctional system, the federal government contracted with a new company, Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), on the design, construction, ownership, licensing, and operation of an adult correctional facility. Today, CCA partners with all three federal correctional and detention agencies, and it provides services to nearly 20 state and county agencies, helping them manage inmate populations. The company has an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, employs 17,000, and owns 44 of its 66 operating facilities in 17 states, which house a combined 90,000 beds and more than 80,000 inmates. American Builders Quarterly spoke to Brian G. Day, vice president of real estate for CCA, and Chris Murphree, a project director, to explore the corrections industry and the construction of the new $53 million, 1,124-bed Jenkins County Correctional Center in Millen, Georgia.

Brian G. Day

CCA: At a Glance

Location
Nashville, TN

Founded
1983

Employees
17,000

Specialties
Prison design, construction, development, and operations

Annual Revenue
$1.75 billion

What does the real estate development department oversee for CCA?
Corrections Corporation of America: We maintain internal departments for planning and design, construction, facilities maintenance, and energy management. Additionally, we employ specialists for site acquisition and entitlement; their mission is to locate future sites. These specialists allow us to be both responsive to our customers and ensure that we have inventory available to remain competitive in the market. We spend about $61 million a year keeping all of the utilities within the 66 facilities we manage nationwide.

What do you consider when you’re looking to acquire new sites?
CCA: We’re looking for viable land with ample water and electrical capacities—typically greenfield space that provides an excellent relationship within a community that is going to be responsive and respectful of the needs of this type of infrastructure. Many communities can have mixed reactions to the potential of a corrections institution, so with that in mind, we create dialogue with communities to educate them on the many community benefits well in advance of the procurements coming out of the government, state, and local agencies. We also try to follow what is taking place in North America as it relates to the populous.

What are ways you work to improve your standing with the communities near your facilities?
CCA: We consider ourselves to be a strong community partner, so we do a lot of cooperative and strategic planning with our clients and partners, working to understand what are their needs. Oftentimes, we can offset the infrastructure load by entering into long-term contracts to help improve water treatment, extend infrastructure, build a larger tax base, and increase employment within the community.

Was this the case with the new Jenkins Facility?
CCA: It was. The facility was built at the request of the Georgia Department of Corrections. The site features one cell-housing unit and two dorm-housing units as well as the support building, which includes dental, medical, dining, kitchen, and maintenance facilities. This is the first CCA facility where we used metal buildings for the cell housing, which we did to promote cost-effectiveness. The metal also acts as a weather shield, and the interior of the building is in-filled with metal panel cells.

At the Jenkins County Correctional Center in Georgia, CCA constructed cell housing from metal for the first time. The metal is more affordable and acts as a weather shield. PHOTO: ERIC ROBERTS

Was your construction approach to this project unique at all?
CCA: It was one of the first projects we did utilizing a design-build method, and we hired DLR as the architect of record. Design-build is a great delivery method for our company, partly because it’s very pro-collaborative. The client was able to view the details and ensure … the quality of the project throughout [its] duration. We wanted to create a better environment for both the inmates and the staff, so we incorporated stained concrete in the dayrooms and some accent colors to break up the standard white canvas. We also conducted an acoustics study to minimize noise and echo.

Does the facility’s exterior also account for the needs of the community?
CCA: We have adopted aesthetic elements to reduce the typical harshness that a pedestrian or vehicular passerby may see in the prison environment. We softened … Jenkins, creating a textured, exterior landscape [and] a brick wall that prevents damage to the metal paneling—and many of the buildings also have pitched roofing. The facility appears more as an institutional business center or business park.

How does the idea of collaboration play into the future of CCA?
CCA: Collaboration is at the heart of what CCA embodies. We embrace collaboration as a normal practice, and our success is founded on delivering solutions, so collaboration is fundamental to framing the challenge and meeting expectations. We adopted design-build practices straight from the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA). Our entire team has completed the DBIA “boot camp,” including the testing portion, to achieve their individual certification; to this end, we enforce and support the most collaborative means and methods possible to procure and implement our real estate mission. ABQ