An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Commissioners ready to act on ‘program’ draft for correctional facility

A pie chart shows preliminary space allocations for the Lancaster County Correctional Facility, inset in an aerial image of the facility’s site. (Source: Lancaster County)

The Lancaster County commissioners appear prepared to finalize the draft program for the county’s correctional facility project.

A vote to formally approve the document is on the commissioners’ agenda (PDF) for their meeting Wednesday morning. The draft, which outlines the future facility’s space allocations and functions, will serve as guidance for schematic design, the next phase in the project’s development.

The commissioners discussed the draft program last week, and a number of their suggestions have since been incorporated into a revised version, Bob Devonshire told the commissioners Tuesday. Devonshire is the director of general services and a member of the correctional facility project’s advisory committee.

Among other things, the county’s interest in providing space for a future centralized booking function has been noted. Information has been added on housing and on the facility’s planned “cluster model,” which locates functions such as healthcare and educational programming near groups of housing units to reduce inmate services and promote efficiency.

Other changes mostly involve formatting, clarification and minor wording changes, Devonshire said. Terminology was made more consistent; for example, by using the word “intake” throughout rather than alternating between “intake” and “commitment.”

The program calls for 29 housing units with 1,212 beds. While that is the capacity need forecasted for 2050, the commissioners and warden agreed last week that the county should initially build around 1,000 beds, possibly fewer, while ensuring core areas and building systems are large enough and laid out appropriately to accommodate the full footprint later on.

“I think we ought to be clear about that,” Commissioner Josh Parsons said. After considering whether mentioning it on the project website would be sufficient, the commissioners agreed to add a sentence to the draft itself. It reads: “The current direction from the Board of Commissioners is to plan for a facility to support a core of 1,212 beds with an initial build of approximately 1,000 beds.”

Both those figures are tentative, as are all the specifications in the draft. As a prominent disclaimer notes at the start, the draft is merely guidance, and does not commit the county to a specific size, layout, number of beds or budget. All those decisions will be finalized much later in the planning process.

Commissioner Alice Yoder pushed to add language explicitly calling for trauma-informed design. It’s something the community has strongly endorsed at project listening sessions, she said.

She agreed the draft reflects a trauma-informed approach, but the term itself is widely known and using it would be important, she said. She proposed the draft could call for “reducing environmental inputs to prevent a trauma response” via elements such as soothing colors, natural light and noise buffers.

Her colleagues were not convinced. Adding another sentence isn’t necessary, given the trauma-informed approach that’s already there, Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said. Parsons said “trauma-informed” isn’t an objective term, the way a bed count is, and could be subject to a range of interpretations if it were included.