Clark/Sullivan Construction

August 25, 2015

Q&A: Prison Construction 101

For those unhappy with their jobs, walking into your place of work could feel like you’re walking into jail. But what if your construction jobsite was inside of a prison and you actually enjoyed it? For Charles Trip Miller, Project Manager at Clark/Sullivan Construction, this is just the case.

Miller and his team have been working on a project to build a school within a functioning prison. This means that the crews are working in proximity with inmates, guards and prison staff, all the while completing the daily tasks of an experienced construction crew.

Doesn’t sound like your average day at the office, huh? We sat down with Miller to ask him a few questions about the challenges and obstacles he deals with on this project.

What would you say is the most challenging part of managing a project within a prison?

That is an easy one….security clearances. Every employee, owner, truck driver, etc. has to complete a one-page Security Clearance Form and submit it to the Sheriff’s Office for approval if they want to come on-site for any reason. That could take one to seven work days just to hear back – not including the manpower issues if one or many are denied. 

What types of obstacles do you have to deal with on this job that are different than previous jobs you’ve worked on?

Security Clearances; suggested “orange” PPE as inmates don’t wear that color; daily worker check-in at the gate to receive a badge and check out upon leaving; vehicle tool check upon entering and when leaving every day; anyone inside the fence line automatically agrees to be fully searched at any time; all materials and tools have to be left in storage containers at the end of each day and accounted for by the Sheriff’s Office; the facility is a 24/7 facility year round, every year…shut downs of any utility are highly discouraged.

Did you or your crew need special training before starting on the prison construction project?  

No, not special training, just special education so we can convey the nuances of prison/jail work to all consultants and subcontractors during the bid process to minimize problems and keep everyone safe.

Question: What do you believe is the most interesting part of the project?  

It is most interesting to hear how the Sheriffs have to always think and anticipate potential threats to their safety and others. They have to specify certain construction materials, specific viewing adjacencies, be aware of where can an inmate hide a weapon, including what they can break off to make a weapon.

Question: Have you learned anything new from this job?

When it comes to detention facilities, there are reasons why things are done a certain way. You don’t have to ask, you just have to do.

Question: How do you think this project impacts the community it serves? 

It keeps the community safer by eliminating some of the threats that continually plaque our society. In addition to incarceration, these educational facilities, provide an opportunity to those inmates that seek a skill to better prepare themselves for reentering the community when they are eligible for release.

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