Prepping to move female prisoners at MCI-Framingham
Design firms sought for rebuilds at two facilities
A STATE BOARD looking to convert two rundown prisons in Norfolk and Framingham into facilities that can house female prisoners from MCI-Framingham has narrowed the list of project designers to three, all of whom claim expertise in building prisons for women.
MCI-Framingham, the state’s lone prison for women, appears to be in a serious state of disrepair. Built in 1877, it’s the oldest women’s prison in the US. Several sections of the prison have closed in recent years due to aging infrastructure that isn’t up to state standards, according to a report filed by a Department of Public Health inspector.
After earlier denying it was vacating the facility, the Department of Correction acknowledged last month that it was looking to hire design firms to determine whether the Bay State Correction Center in Norfolk and the South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham could be rebuilt to accommodate the MCI-Framingham inmates. Over a hundred inmates have already been moved out to the South Bay House of Correction in Boston.
In its bid instructions, the state said it wants the designer to “have an eye to specific needs of the female prison population” and incorporate “trauma informed design” to create a welcoming therapeutic space.
The board, however, said there was little it could do and narrowed the field of candidates for $600,000 in design work to three – Finegold Alexander Architects; Kleinfelder Northeast, Inc.; and SMRT Architects & Engineers. The cost of the full buildout of the project is estimated at $50 million. Finegold Alexander Architects; Kleinfelder Northeast, Inc. expressed interest in meeting with the activists.
At Bay State, state officials are envisioning a new building to house 200 maximum and medium security female offenders from Framingham. At South Middlesex, which is adjacent to MCI-Framingham and built in 1939, the plan is to remodel the existing facility to handle 125 pre-release and minimum security female detainees. South Middlesex relies on the power, heating, and water supply from MCI-Framingham’s power plant.
Liz Minnis, deputy commissioner for planning at the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the state’s real estate arm, said the state is looking at Bay State and South Middlesex proposals as an alternative to investing in MCI-Framingham.
Kleinfelder, which has worked on different projects at MCI-Framingham in the past, said in its paperwork that “a significant portion of the building is not utilized and is in disrepair.”
The company said its priorities in redesigning the Bay State and South Middlesex buildings would be improving health services, expanding the capacity of intake, and reducing crowding. Kleinfelder said there tend to be fewer violent offenders at women prisons, so low or medium security environments are in higher demand. The firm said it also wants to “provide a pleasant child visitation area that supports both mother and child.”Graham Vickers, the chief architect at SMRT Architects and Engineers, said his practice has a “focus on designing for justice clients.” He said he worked on the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women, a new 224-bed facility.
Finegold Alexander has extensive experience designing justice facilities for the state of Massachusetts and the firm is teaming with HOK Architects, a firm that focuses on correctional facility design that is responsive to the needs of incarcerated women. HOK specializes in “gender-responsive planning” and has designed inmate housing that allows children to sleep with their mothers. [This paragraph was corrected to make clear the role of HOK Architects as part of the team.]