What makes the JPC unique?
Given the large intake volume and the numerous city and county agencies that would be operating in the new facility, designing the JPC building was a complex and challenging endeavor. To operate properly, all the functional areas had to go together like a Swiss Watch. To that end, PGAL worked with the project teams to properly size all the areas and we then mastered the necessary functional adjacencies, both horizontally and vertically. The end result was a facility design that optimized processing efficiency for all the detainees and their property (cash, valuable property, bulk property and clothing). The design allowed the HCSO to increase our supervision of detainees and embrace the use of modern technology to dramatically improve operations. By design, HCSO staff now track all detainee movement, in real-time, by using simple QR codes on the detainee armbands. This tracking process is used to trigger the applicable electronic work-queues (based on case type and status) as detainees flow through the JPC facility. To maximize efficiency, the system is not restricted to a linear flow, as some processing functions can occur in any order. After the JPC opened, the major constraints to expediting detainee intake processing are now mostly external to the Sheriff's Office (e.g. the time it takes to create a criminal case, prerequisite court actions, etc.).
In addition to improving efficiency, it was important to improve the operational environment for staff and detainees. The JPC open seating areas include 12 foot ceilings, extensive use of calming colors, noise damping materials, mounted TVs, phones, comfortable seating and, most importantly, an abundance of natural light. The open seating areas look like airport seating rather than a jail. The more normative environment helps reduce the tension level and the possibility of a detainee altercation. To support our staff, we also included employee breakrooms in every functional area. Employees can now take a quick break while still remaining in their assigned duty areas.
Numerous innovative features were also incorporated into the JPC design to enhance security. For instance, the extensive use of one-way window film throughout the facility allows officers to view into cells and areas without being observed. In addition, the holding cell doors include a safety feature that allows an officer to handcuff a disruptive prisoner BEFORE opening the cell door AND maintain his/her grip on the cuffs even while the door is being opened/closed. Another design enhancement was not placing any structural support columns inside the housing units, thus giving officers clear sightlines to proactively supervise all prisoner activities. The JPC design also incorporated a sophisticated electric security system that included numerous features and alerts to enhance overall facility safety and security.
In May 2019, at the 38th Annual American Jail Association (AJA) Conference and Jail Expo, HCSO Major Pat Dougherty and I gave a detailed presentation entitled, "Harris County's new Joint Processing Center, An Example of Modern Technology and Design Innovation". In that presentation, we emphasized some of the impressive and unique features of the JPC facility. For more information, please click on the links below.