Top 5 Issues That Cause Jail Construction Delays

Before construction or renovation of a jail facility can begin, it may take years for county board approval, referendums, and bond funding to be secured. After all that work is completed, it’s disheartening (and costly) to finally enter the construction phase only to experience even more delays.

County officials and jail staff need to work closely with their construction manager and the Department of Corrections (DoC) to avoid these top jail construction delays.

1. Not Coordinating Timelines

As with any commercial construction project, organizing contractors, deliveries, installations, and inspections requires precise scheduling and in-depth knowledge of the construction process. When that commercial project is a jail facility, the stakes are even higher due to strict compliance and the unique nature of the materials used.

Almost everything is custom when it comes to building a jail. Whereas a typical door in an office building might take a few weeks to arrive from the time an order is placed, the types of security doors, glass, and frames required for a jail facility have lead times that could take months. Even the order in which construction tasks are completed often differs from typical construction projects. Without an experienced construction manager who understands these exacting nuances and plans each detail, things can get off track quickly.

RELATED: 8 Major Jail Construction Challenges and Considerations

2. Not Updating Policies & Training Staff

Just because a construction project is complete doesn’t mean it’s ready for occupancy. Something as simple as walking into the building will likely require different security protocols than those of the old jail facility. Processing of inmates will also differ, requiring updated policies for booking, fingerprinting, evidence processing, inmate classification, and more. 

Increasing the number of beds alone will bring with it a myriad of updated policies related to the timing and implementation of routine wellness checks, med-passes, meals, and other activities. And, of course, staff needs to be thoroughly trained on these protocols and new security systems before inmates can be transferred. Not including these crucial steps in the construction plan can easily delay move-in day.

3. Not Planning for Mother Nature

Prolonged rains can threaten a project’s timeline. Foundation work and exterior finishes, in particular, can be impacted when weather doesn’t cooperate. Admittedly, there’s no way to plan for natural disasters like flooding and severe weather, so it’s important to discuss ways to mitigate the risks with the construction manager and general contractor.

As of late, other “acts of God” have impacted construction projects. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, threatened some supply chains, causing material delays. While construction is generally deemed an essential industry, some contractors struggled to keep their workforce in place over concerns about infection.

4. Not Hiring the Right Construction Manager

A construction manager is responsible for planning, budgeting, and developing bid packages for various contractors. They work closely with architects, engineers, and project owners to develop specifications and timelines. The construction manager will also serve as a superintendent to oversee the construction and keep things on track, proactively addressing issues before they become a major problem that will lead to delays.

Engaging an experienced construction manager as early in the planning process as possible helps ensure the best results. They can help project owners gain buy-in from other stakeholders, facilitate pre-referendum planning, assist with bonding, work with architects and, ultimately, save money.

5. Not Hiring the Right General Contractor and Subcontractors

Securing a qualified general contractor and subcontractors is equally important as hiring the right construction manager. Knowledge and experience working with specialty materials and regulatory requirements can help ensure minimal change order requests. Understanding your contractors’ capacity is also important, as they may get caught up in other jobs that set your project back.

Checking a contractor’s safety record can also help mitigate potential delays. OSHA safety violations and worker injuries can abruptly bring the jobsite to a standstill and, in the event of a fatality, work stoppages may not resume until an investigation is completed.

Move-in day to a new jail facility can be an exciting time, but unexpected delays can dampen an otherwise rewarding experience and even bring negative media attention. Help minimize surprises by reviewing our Guide to Jail Construction Planning below. And consult with our jail facility specialists to get answers to any questions you may have.

Guide to Jail Construction Planning

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