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Innovation Supports Rehabilitation at HOK-Designed Maple Street Correctional Center

Concepts promoting rehabilitation and reduced recidivism guided the design of the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, California, which is aiming for LEED Gold certification.

Excerpted from Correctional News:

The 257,000-sq.-ft., $165 million Maple Street Correctional Center (MSCC) in Redwood City, California, is a model for corrections with compassion, with sizable space for inmate programs, natural light and ventilation, artwork, top-notch staff amenities and significant sustainability features.

Prior to design, administrators and architects toured jails across the United States to gain insight into their best practices. “The one thing we took away was that many of the jails we visited were very dark and very depressing to inmates and staff operating the jail,” said Sam Lin, senior capital project manager at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. “We felt their only function was to warehouse the inmates. After the visits, the sheriff and administrators wanted to do something different. They wanted to bring in the life, the different programs and make this very different from the rest of the jails. So that is how we started.”

The project moves beyond warehousing and offers a therapeutic, rehabilitative environment that rewards inmates for good behavior with activities including a ping pong table, a large open-air rec yard and program rooms with surround-sound and large-screen TVs. This environment supports the idea that recidivism rates can drop and inmates can begin to regain control of their lives to break the cycle that got them incarcerated in the first place.

“The owner really wanted to embrace the direct supervision model and have a more therapeutic, rehabilitative interior,” said Jeff Goodale, director of Justice at HOK and lead planner on MSCC. “It really helps the county to have their day reporting and transitional housing all in one place, it helps the staff get to know the inmates pretty well, and that helps in their rehabilitation process.”

The day reporting center known as the Sheriff’s Work Program is co-located near the transitional housing units. Seventy-five percent of the cells are multiple-occupancy, eight-person, glass-faced cells. Officials and staff are working at the new facility in conjunction with the nearby downtown Maguire Correctional Facility and place inmates based on classification.

In the new center, each floor has a core station supporting four housing units. Each core station contains a classroom, computer lab and multipurpose room—all of which provide programming space for inmates from different housing units.

“We may have service providers that can only spend two hours a week here, so why not be able to take people from different housing units (as long as they can get along) and bring them to a centralized space to do the programming in there,” explained Lt. David Titus, project director with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. “So instead of going into a pod, which is typical in county jails, we can actually take inmates off the pod to go to programs.’

There are nature-based themes throughout the facility. For instance, the housing units are named Ocean, Bay, Valley and Mountain, and the conference rooms are named Ohlone and Miwok after Native American tribes local to San Mateo County. The transitional housing units are also named after local trees: Aspen, Laurel and Sequoia. In the dayrooms of those units are corresponding enlarged photographs of the actual trees.

“We did not use our typical colors,” said Titus. “We used colors that are shown to reduce stress and promote healing.”

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