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Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services – Dorsey Run Correctional Facility


Prisons are among the most important public institutions, and a new one is on its way to Jessup, Md. The first phase of the minimum-security Dorsey Run Correctional Facility is under way and scheduled for completion by 2013.

“Design work is done and we’ve signed off on that, so construction can start,” says S.K. Kulkarni, PE, director, Division of Capital Construction at the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services. “The contractor is currently working on foundations and fill work. The project is on a 20-acre site and its two phases total more than 165,000 gross square feet. It is the first major design-build project of this magnitude for our department.”

Phased Approach

The facility is  located within the Jessup correctional complex between the closed Maryland House of Correction and the Jessup Pre-release Unit. When it is finished, the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility will include two compounds. Each will have two two-story, 280-bed dormitory units, a support services building, a strip search room, recreation yard, parking lot, perimeter security system, utilities and lighting. It will provide the state with 1,120 new minimum-security beds.

The new prison is being fast-tracked because of the state’s need for minimum security beds due to the 2007 closure of the House of Correction, revised classification of inmate population by security levels and handing over of a Baltimore downtown maximum security facility to the federal government.

The new Dorsey Run Correctional Facility will serve a different class of prisoner and lessen the Division of Correction’s dependence on nonconventional housing for minimum-security inmates. Roughly 500 of its inmates will have work-release jobs. It is designed to be a much more modern, efficient, cost-effective and secure prison, and it will be constructed to LEED silver certifications and have large windows.

Maryland’s state legislature requires state projects to attempt LEED Silver certification. Some of the credit categories this project is pursuing include sustainable site credits for construction activity pollution prevention; credits for innovative wastewater technologies and water-use reduction; and energy and atmosphere credits for optimizing energy performance and green power.

The project originally was proposed in 2009, but several delays pushed groundbreaking to 2011, which meant the project had to be reorganized from three phases to two. Each phase will be awarded through separate design/build contracts. Thus far, grading, storm water management and utility relocation work has begun. Construction on the buildings for phase one is scheduled to start this spring.

The plan for the first phase includes complete construction of the facility’s 560-bed east compound, as well as grading and earthwork for the west compound. The target for completion of phase one is May 2013 with occupancy by fall 2013. Its total estimated cost is $26.5 million, which includes $13.2 million in general obligation bond funds and $10 million in federal pay-as-you-go funds. As the cost is higher than original estimates, an additional $2.1 million in federal pay-as-you-go funds were provided as a fiscal 2012 deficiency appropriation.

Leading the first phase of the design/build project for Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services is the Maryland-based general contractor P.J. Dick Inc. Along with Trumbull and Lindy Paving, P.J. Dick is part of a family of firms that have managed more than $5 billion in construction activity.

Overcoming Obstacles

The site itself presented several issues. “The site has wetlands and portion of it is in a floodplain with a stream cutting across the site, which is regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Kulkarni says. “After the review of plans prepared by the Civil Engineering Consultant, EBA Engineering Inc., on the design/build team, the Corps of Engineers allowed the Maryland Department of the Environment to review and approve the relocation of the stream.

“We then had to work with the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the consultant team hired by P.J. Dick did a good job and got permissions and approvals quickly,” he adds. “It took about nine months to work through that process so we could get started with site work.”

The stream had to be relocated so buildings could be accommodated and put into an area with more space. The site also has a drop of about 30 feet, a significant issue to locate a correctional facility, which was an important challenge to overcome because sightlines have to be maintained for security purposes.

“The consultant’s solution was to level the site in steps,” Kulkarni says. “We are doing all the preparation work for the entire site so the second phase will only have to deal with buildings and utilities.”

Fortunately, the project site is located fairly close to the headquarters for Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services and P.J. Dick, which has helped with monitoring progress. The state has a project management team on-site, and P.J. Dick’s staff and third-party consultants don’t have to do much travelling. “Progress meetings during construction take place every two weeks, and regular meetings and our proximity to the site allows us to keep close watch on the progress and quickly resolve issues,” Kulkarni says. “The contractor keeps us up-to-date, and they have a web-based system that allows us to see the status of project.”

When phase one is complete, the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services can look forward to phase two. It is estimated that phase two will cost another $26 million with work beginning around August 2014 and wrapping up in September 2016.

Having overcome various challenges related to site work and environmental approvals in phase one will be a benefit when phase two commences in several years. In the meantime, the state is looking forward to getting construction fully underway for phase one and moving forward with a project that will mean much needed improvements to Maryland’s correctional services department.