Essex County Embraces Open Booking Design
By Torrey Sims (03/27/2013)

MIDDLETON, Mass. — Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, Jr., is keeping himself busy with two major projects underway at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton.

The two projects — the Regional Support Services Building, a prisoner intake building and the Essex County Regional Emergency Communications Center — will expand the services at the facility.

The new $11 million intake building broke ground last month and is slated for completion in December. The building will serve as the first “open booking” facility in the state. The project also involves converting the existing intake building to a 24-bed lock-up for female inmates.

The intake building is designed to promote better inmate flow in and out of the prison, according to Cousins. “The original intake building was designed was 550 inmates and now we fluctuate around 1,200 inmates at the Middleton facility. I think for officer safety it’s going to be a big improvement,” he said.

The 170,000-square-foot intake center housed on the medium-security Essex County Correctional Facility will help to relieve heavy inmate traffic, according to Cousins. Cousins researched the best possible solution for the intake center and after trips to other facilities he was convinced that an open booking design needed to be implemented at the facility. The open booking design will be the first in the state of Massachusetts.

The project has taken over 10 years to get off the ground, according to Cousins. After (long) careful planning and presenting a master plan and needs assessment, Gov. Deval Patrick implemented action.

The open booking concept really proved to be useful in practice, as Cousin's witnessed firsthand the design at an intake center in Florida and then again in Maine.

The success of the project has a lot to do with careful planning and research, said Cousins.

“After the master planning, the governor was committed to seeing it through. It is one of the only prison projects happening in Massachusetts at this time,” he said.

“We definitely looked at this and really did our homework. The area [intake building] can hold up to 1,600 inmates, so a lot of thought has gone into the planning of this and I think that has been really important,” said Cousins.

The intake center is expected to take 14 months to complete. The project team consists of East Boston, Mass.-based general contractor G.V.W. Inc., Boston-based Nitsch Engineering as the civil engineer and Belmont, Mass.-based Equus Design Group who is serving as the architect and planner for the project.

Along with the intake center, the Regional Support Services Building is also on the grounds of the Middleton facility and is ready to go on-line July 1. The building will serve six cities and towns and regionalize dispatch for them, according to Cousins.

With both buildings getting rave reviews from Cousins, he is looking forward to the opportunities the new space will bring and excited for future additions, including video arraignment.

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