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.

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