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Guest Blog Post: Five Ways to Normalization in Correctional Environments

Normalization Correctional Environments

Steve Carter

The following blog post was written by Steve Carter, founder and president of CGL Services Division at CGL Companies. Below he discusses Five Ways to Normalization in Correctional Environments.

By the very nature of corrections, the policies, procedures, management, design, and construction approaches rely on tried and proven methods. Innovation in design and construction over the last three decades has largely been driven by a direct supervision of inmates within housing units and the ever-changing use of technology. I believe the innovation that has occurred in just these two areas has provided a context for including the notion of normalization in the design of correctional environments. To that end, I think normalization relies on five underpinnings.

1. To be effective, normalization must be a part of facility management’s attitude regarding the value of all staff, inmates, and visitors. Normalization begins with a conviction that personal communication is re-enforced through the creation of spaces and places where the opinions and voices of all people can be heard, both literally and figuratively.

2. Normalization requires policies from elected and appointed officials that promote social justice. Without the courage to confront injustice, communities or individuals have little choice but to seek recourse beyond the norm. In jails and prisons, this is usually manifested in various types of challenges to authority and the physical setting.

3. In the detention environment, a step towards normalization is represented in the attitudes and actions of staff based on policies and procedures. Often the tradition-laden policies, procedures, and rules that exist in jails and prisons inhibit innovation. The creation of a “normalized” environment requires initiative to examine policies and actions that depend on intervention rather than prevention to resolve conflict.

4. Another step towards normalization is achieved by eliminating obstacles to direct communication with inmates. The ability to interact with persons representing authority without barriers is the beginning of a state of trust, which, even in a prison or jail, is essential if good order is to be maintained. Too often, the barriers to communication are the result of tradition and not of evidence.

5. An abundance of natural light, color, sound attenuating materials, fixtures, and furnishings are some of the physical characteristics of a normalized facility. Typically, in a correctional facility, these elements of normalization actually cost less, are more valued, and are better protected by the inmates than “traditional” correctional environments. The excellent work of Dr. Rich Wener provides an evidence basis for a tilt towards normalization in design and furnishings.

I accept that there are prisoners that will not adjust to normalized environments, but observations and evidence indicate that the vast majority will. Our constant challenge is to find the methods and means of achieving normalization in secure environments.

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