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New Minnesota Justice Center Aims to be More ‘Humane’

On July 31, 2023, Minnesota Lawyer reported that Carlton County is constructing a new justice center that, as part of a growing trend, will include a detention center designed to be more humane and healthier for detainees.

The 117,000-square foot facility will house the sheriff’s department, courts, public defender offices and a unit for female detainees. It will reportedly have well-lit common areas, “calming colors” on the walls and ceilings, along with other aesthetic design elements intended to “treat [prisoners] with dignity.”

This change in the way lockups are built comes amid an increase in the number of incarcerated women, as well as detainees who are elderly or suffering mental health conditions. This “has been a huge deal and I think as people get more educated in the corrections field, they’re talking about it more,” said Scott Fettig, president of Klein McCarthy Architects, which designed the new building.

“It’s not always about locking them up; it’s about recovery,” agreed Tim Clark, an executive with contractor Adolfson & Peterson Construction. New jail construction includes softer color schemes, more natural light, sound-dampening materials and anti-suicide cell features. Carlton County’s justice center project, with a projected cost of $75 million, incorporates larger spaces divided into separate areas based on what charges prisoners face and their mental health needs. Single-occupancy cells also reduce potential conflicts.

Fettig noted that the improved designs are also beneficial for guards, helping retain them with better working conditions. The cost for more humane detention facilities is minimal, he added: “We’re talking pennies on the dollar.”

Yet underneath the pastel blue coat of paint and increased natural lighting, the jail remains a jail. Prisoners are separated from their loved ones and frequently denied medical and mental health care they need. They are also increasingly shaken down for high fees for phone calls, video visits, e-tablet services and commissary purchases. While designing more humane facilities is a modest improvement, the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S. requires more robust solutions that result in fewer prisons and jails being built, regardless of their features.  


Source: Minnesota Lawyer

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