SMP Architecture of Concord, NH was selected for the initial design work for the Belknap County Community Corrections, a new 64-bed re-entry facility in Laconia. This will be the second project of its type for the architects and one of only a handful to be built in the eastern U.S. This project also reunites the team of corrections consultant Kevin Warwick of Alternative Solutions Associates and Superintendent Ross Cunningham, who were the guiding force for the first Community Corrections project for Sullivan County in Unity, NH in 2010.
The new Belknap County facility will be its own wing at the
county complex in Laconia, attached to the existing medium and maximum security
jail. It is planned to house 44 men and
20 women in both work release and treatment programs.
The Community Corrections model is a minimum security jail emphasizing programs that have demonstrated success at reducing recidivism. This is accomplished by a combination of counselling, treatment, restitution and “evidence–based” programs, that is, programs that have a proven track record at reducing repeat offenses. Examples include cognitive behavioral/life skills groups, substance abuse groups, job readiness and employment, educational programs, and housing and community reintegration planning. These programs work in stages to knit inmates back into the local community, rather than just turning them out wholly unprepared at the end of their sentences.
Because this approach has been shown to both be more economical overall and more effective In increasing public safety by reducing repeated incarceration it has attracted great interest the corrections community. More and more facilities around the country are looking at both decreased construction costs and reduction in recidivism as part of their planning approach.
The Sullivan County Community Corrections, also designed by SMP and the current advisory team, was a 72–bed facility that opened five years ago.
Sullivan County’s success at reducing the inmate population (down to 48 from the initial 72) caused others to take notice. Recidivism is down to 17% from a national average in county jails of around 65%. “My goal is to put myself out of business.” said Supt. Cunningham at the time. The approach has both reduced the burden on the county and turned around the lives of many individuals. The program has gained national attention.
About Sheerr McCrystal Palson
SMP Architecture is a full-service architectural firm established in New London in 1982, currently located on Main Street in Concord. The firm is known for municipal work, especially public libraries, performing arts venues, religious buildings, corporate facilities and a wide range of non-profit agencies.