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The Little-Known Reason Counties Keep Building Bigger Jails: Architecture Firms
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of The Intercept

Illustration: The Intercept

The Intercept, May 31, 2024
Posted: June 24th, 2024

Elevatus, a Fort Wayne-based architecture firm ... has designed jails all over Indiana and in several other states. For counties that are considering expanding their current jail or building a new one, Elevatus produces feasibility studies that usually predict growing incarceration needs. In many cases, Elevatus also wins a contract to draw up the plans for the facility it recommended. That’s what happened in Allen County. Four months after Elevatus released its study, the company was hired to design the new jail. If the county’s elected officials approve the project, the firm’s design fees — factored as a percentage of the project’s total cost, as is standard for architecture firms — could be around $10 million. Elevatus is far from the only architecture firm creating feasibility studies and needs assessments that recommend substantially larger jails and then designing those buildings. Such blatant conflict of interest is occurring in counties all over the country. These studies rely on thin data to justify spending millions of dollars in public funds. The most significant consequence, though, is that more people wind up incarcerated. “Who’s in jail is a product of the policies and practices of [the] criminal justice system,” said David Bennett, a consultant for the National Institute of Corrections. “There’s no correlation between crime and incarceration rates.” Bennett [emphasizes] that the real way to reduce jail overcrowding is through policy, especially at the local level. Sheriffs have great discretion over how minor infractions are treated, who gets released on their own recognizance, and whether failure-to-appear warrants are called in. Changes like these were implemented during the pandemic, and jail populations dropped precipitously, with little downside.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of news articles on prison system corruption from reliable major media sources.

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