How to Successfully Transition to a New Jail Facility

Move-in day for a new jail facility looks a lot different than it does for a typical commercial office building. First of all, it will take months – not days – to coordinate the transition of inmates, train workers on new policies and equipment, and give them the lay of the land.

The most successful transitions occur when there is a unified effort between the Department of Corrections (DoC), the construction manager, and the jail staff. Forming a jail transition team is also extremely helpful. Ideally, the transition team is formed before construction even begins to ensure the facility’s layout, security, safety, and materials function properly. Use these tips to make the transition to a new, state-of-the-art jail facility as smooth and efficient as possible.

Form a Transition Team

During the design and construction phase of a jail facility, a transition team should be formed. This team typically consists of about three to five jail officials including sergeants, chiefs, administrators, and others who are most familiar with your jail and operating procedures. It’s their responsibility to direct policies for a new facility. This team will work with jail staff, the DoC, and construction manager to help determine the ideal flow for various functions such as booking and classifications into pods and secure areas for inmates.

Work with the Department of Corrections

Representatives from the DoC will play a key role in the transition as they participate in team meetings, assist in writing new policies, and visit the site to ensure everything goes smoothly. Prior to moving inmates, a complete sweep of the facility will be completed and it will be put in lockdown, not allowing anyone back inside until they’re ready to move inmates in.

Review Design with Construction Manager

The building of a jail in a community is often a once-in-a-lifetime event, so project owners often don’t understand the depth of detail and planning that needs to take place. When initial plans are drawn up, it’s critical to understand how a plan on paper will become a reality. Numerous coordination meetings with the DoC, construction manager, transition team, and other stakeholders will be held to ensure the building functions the way it needs to.

For example, electricians need to pull cabling with proper raceways and conduit that accommodate higher volumes of electronics, and specialty security glass needs to meet compliance requirements and could take up to 24 weeks to arrive. Unlike many commercial construction projects, detention frames have a long lead time and need to be in place before the masonry. Nearly everything in a jail facility is custom, and without proper oversight from a construction manager and working together with a transition team, subcontractors, deputies, and others, a project schedule could be significantly delayed.

RELATED: 8 Major Jail Construction Challenges and Considerations

Take a Virtual Walk-Through

The project team will help provide a virtual walk-through to demonstrate how different rooms and areas will work and provide an opportunity for necessary adjustments. Administrators can then understand operational flow such as where inmates are brought in and where breathalyzers and fingerprinting take place. Visualizing other areas — from evidence processing and storage to laundry and food service — help bring the facility to life. A construction manager may work with the team for more than a year prior to completion to cast the vision and ensure the transition goes smoothly.

Create Tailored Policies

There will be many policies in place from the previous jail facility, but they will need to be adapted to accommodate the new one. While it takes some work on the front end to develop these new policies, it can reduce labor in the long run.

For example, if you’re transitioning from an older facility with 40 beds to a new one with 120 beds, you’ll need to have enough mattresses, bedding, jumpsuits, flip flops, socks, and other essentials. You’ll also need to update any procedures related to these items, such as when bed checks occur, when and how medications are dispensed, how much staff is needed to complete tasks, how inmates circulate, and how those enrolled in Huber work release programs enter and exit the jail.

Employees will also need to fully understand how updated security systems work and how they may interface with existing systems. Training videos for various groups will help ensure all the procedures that are put in place are understood and that everyone knows their jobs.

Your construction manager should have a checklist to help you assess your needs and coordinate new procedures, and your DoC representative will be a great resource for helping with your policies as well.

9-1-1 System

If 9-1-1 dispatch relocation is part of your project, the system will need to switch to the new building. There shouldn’t be any disruptions but, just in case, a back-up system can be put in place in a neighboring county on the day the switchover takes place.

There are many more considerations when transitioning to a new jail facility, and it’s all too easy to overlook important details. To get a better sense of other factors you’ll need to consider, access our Guide to Jail Construction Planning resource below.

By getting to know your DoC representative, working with a construction manager that specializes in building jail facilities, and working with communities, administrators, and specialty contractors, you can be assured that the process will go much more smoothly. Contact the specialists at The Samuels Group for a complimentary consultation today.

Guide to Jail Construction Planning

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