America’s prison system is responsible for housing and rehabilitating a very large population of inmates. The resources and accommodations required are great, and the system, the largest in the world, has reached a point of no return. Many of its parts are in critical need of repair. As a result, there are hundreds of contracting opportunities.

In Indiana, a large-scale construction program to rebuild LaPorte County’s Westville Correctional Center is underway. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued for architectural and engineering design work that carries a budget of $12 million. The ultimate objective will be to construct a new facility that houses 4,000 new beds and has space for administrative purposes, recreational activities, and food services. The projected construction costs for the project are $400 million. The county has an anticipated start date slated for 2022.

The state of California also plans a major prison renovation project for the State Prison in Los Angeles. The active procurement phase is scheduled for some time in 2022 with an anticipated completion date of 2023. The most immediate project is a roof replacement. This project has a budget of $32.6 million.

prison scaled Contracting opportunities rife among aging correctional facilities

In Wisconsin, plans are underway to construct a new Juvenile Corrections Facility in Milwaukee County. The construction project will be open to bids from private sector contractors in 2022, and a budget of $45.8 million has been allocated. The project will include construction of facilities for services relevant to housing, food preparation, health care, academic tutelage, counseling, vocational training, guest visitation, recreational activities, administrative oversight, and other functions. Additionally, the project will include parking clearances, loading zones, outdoor recreational zones, and sophisticated fencing.

Maryland has multiple opportunities related to prison construction work. One of the contracting opportunities centers on the Maryland Correctional Institution of Hagerstown where a plan has been adopted to upgrade the facility’s perimeter security. This project will usher in improvements to the institution’s external facilities, including the visitors’ center, intrusion system, gymnasium, and alarm system. The project has a total estimated budget of $24.3 million with $1.4 million set aside for the project’s initial planning phase.

In Ohio, a sum of $50 million is available to fund various repair and construction projects at a number of the state’s aging correctional facilities. The funding was made available by the Ohio General Assembly’s passage of Senate Bill 310, which authorized distribution of COVID-19 relief funds. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections distributed funding to the state prisons on a need basis. Harrison County was allocated $9.1 million for construction of a new prison, another $10.1 million was allocated for Coshocton County and $16.8 million was sent to Lawrence County. New prison projects of various types are expected to be announced in the very near future.

North Carolina’s Pender County has plans to construct a new prison. County officials signed an agreement in late-October for a $3.25 million design phase. The construction project, with a budget of $40 million, will commence in 2022. The plan is to build a 95,000 square foot facility and county officials have estimated that construction will occur over the next three- years.

In addition to prison facility projects, other correctional contracting opportunities are abundant. One opportunity in New York is related to the planned shut-down of the notorious Rikers Island correctional facility. Closing that prison will create a critical need for four Borough-Based Jails. The current inmate population from Rikers will be distributed among the four facilities in the wake of Rikers’ eventual closure. New York Department of Design and Construction will oversee the construction project that calls for 886 beds in each of the four high-rise facilities. Each facility has a projected budget of between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion.

Although the overall purpose of the U.S. prison system can be a polarizing issue, its importance in the immediate present remains unmistakable. And while intensive debate will likely continue about how prisons should evolve in future decades, the prison system of today must address the needs of more than 2 million inmates. The urgency to address immediate critical prison needs is obvious in many ways but none more clear than the $80.7 billion that is directed annually forward the country’s correctional system.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.