Sunday, April 22, 2012



I love wristwatches. I have 17.
Most of my wristwatches are in a 'winding box'.
A 'winding box' is for automatic watches which are wound by periodically operating turntables. They are set at an angle so that the weighted mechanism in the watch will wind the watch.

I've been fascinated by wristwatches since childhood. I think they're imaginative instruments. It's fun wearing an unusual watch that someone notices. I change mine almost daily. Although, I do have a few favorites.

Next, My Favorites.

Sunday, April 15, 2012



Butner was my first full, major institution that I designed. It was an exciting time, full of experimentation, forward-looking design and interaction with other professionals.

The architects were splendid. We had a very close relationship that meant the design itself turned into a superb facility—a model for other facilities.

It is a medical center, which means it houses medical, psychiatric and regular inmates. 

It makes for a very complicated design to house the various types of inmates. We gathered various experts from many fields, including Dr. Karl Menninger, to help us conceive of new designs. It resulted in housing a smaller group of inmates grouped around a central recreation area in each forty-inmate housing unit. This eventually became a universally accepted approach to housing all types of inmates. We succeeded in designing an overall facility that serves all functions excellently.

One interesting task was to develop a "bar-less" secure window. The experts felt it was imperative for psychological reasons. Thus began an 8-month investigation into the design of such a system. We enlisted many of the top industrial firms to help us. GE was the most helpful and devised a combination polycarbonite and glass sandwiched composite that was extremely secure. We tested many samples until we settled on a three-layer design. (We even had one design with an inner coating that was electrically conductive which would set off an alarm if disturbed. But it proved to be too expensive for wide-spread use. However, it is used commercially by Lincoln automobiles as material for the windshield that defogs and de-ices without wires in the glass!) We began using the three-layer composite in all our prisons as did the entire prison industry eventually.

Next, The BASTROP, TEXAS facility.

Monday, April 9, 2012


LIZA (1970s)

Liza was my first Abyssinian cat. She was remarkable. She shall forever live in my fondest memories. My fate was sealed by Liza to have Abyssinian cats for the rest of my life.
She was the most perfect of cats. It was an eye-opener having a cat like Liza: that house cats could be so personable. I had had cats before, but never such a loving, smart, loyal and active cat. 

A Photographic Essay:
Liza and her rare, RED Aby daughter, Cranberry.
I sold her red daughter for $1,200 to the Mexican Ambassador!
Liza had two litters. Each litter was named after an occasion: Her first was 'Star Wars' with Han, Princess Leia, Yoda and Luke. Her second was 'Thanksgiving' with Pumpkin, Turkey and Cranberry.
I gave one of her sons to Nancy, my sister: 'Sam', formerly Han.
And Steve had Princess Leah as his faithful cat.

Saturday, April 7, 2012



I'm doing great! My doctors have taken me off six medicines and reduced two more!!! I'm "cured" of diabetes and high blood pressure! My cholesterol levels are excellent. My heart doctor says I have increased my life span expectancy by ten years!
BEFORE 12/5/11, 225#
Now 4/7/12, 175#
225# to 175# = -50#.    GOAL: 165# or 60#.

Sunday, April 1, 2012



Where do I begin? I guess at the University of Oklahoma Architecture School in the mid-60s.

But let me digress: I, Donald Cooke Voth, was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Dad always wanted me to be a doctor from the time I was a young boy. I had an aptitude for science and math but I never was very intrigued. Dad, a judge, always wanted to become a doctor, and I feel certain that he tried to instill that in me for that reason. I even graduated in pre-med at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Then, I was accepted at St. Louis University Medical School. But when I got the bill for the cadaver, that stopped everything. It was an epiphany. I realized I really DID NOT want to be a doctor.

Then began a period of unrest and frenzy. My father got me a commission to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I didn't want to do that either. And finally one fateful day, I confronted by father with the fact that I had always wanted to be an architect. I thought that the shit would hit the fan. But he accepted it finally. Mom was ALWAYS for me, no matter what. 

Then it was off to Oklahoma University for a Masters in Architecture. Thank goodness my father didn't cut me off. I flourished in architecture school.

During my second year at the University of Oklahoma's Architecture School, I was a summer worker. My professor/employer called me into his office one day and said, "How would you like to go to Washington DC to work next summer?"

I said, "That might be interesting. To work for the bureau of, what did you say?"

"Prisons! The Federal Bureau of Prisons. I've sent two students there for summer jobs and they have ended up staying there. They want an apprentice to come next summer."

I thought it over and decided even though it was prisons, that I might be interested in doing that. I would, at least, be living in Washington DC which might be exciting!

The next summer found me there, working. 

BOP Headquarters.

The architects from Oklahoma were very nice and helpful. The work was engrossing and fulfilling; the city, exciting. They asked me to come back permanently after I graduated the next year! I was unsure but very interested.

By Christmas, I still hadn't made up my mind. They sent me to the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, for a 
look-see and interview.
The people there could not have been nicer and it was actually very interesting. Although when that front grille-gate slammed shut with me inside, there were some doubts.

But I ended up deciding to work at the headquarters in Washington. It would be an actual supervised apprenticeship and I figured a bird-in-the-hand was worth two-in-the-bush.

So that started my 32-year career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, US Department of Justice.

Overall, it was fascinating, exciting and fulfilling work

   ---that I dedicated my life to.

I always lived on Capitol Hill, where I could walk to work.

I wrote a comprehensive book on the subject of secure adult prisons. This took a lot of time out of a year of my work life, but I am very proud of it. It sold many copies through the National Institute of Corrections. It was very influential on future prisons throughout the world.

There are four prisons I would like to tell you about. On these four (and others) I worked with architects to design from the ground up, literally. Each one took about a year and a half of my career to accomplish.

Next, the first one of the four: Butner, North Carolina.