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McLean Jail-aerial
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McLean Jail-interior

Mental Health Services Drive Jail Expansion

Originally constructed in 1976, and expanded in 1990, the McLean County Law and Justice Center has been at capacity since 2008.  Increased mental health needs for detainees, combined with the indirect supervision linear cell block configuration of the original facility, limited the ability to appropriately classify and house detainees in a manner that didn’t result in overcrowding in some sections while other sections were potentially underutilized. These housing challenges combined with an aging infrastructure prompted McLean County to pursue an expansion to the facility.

Farnsworth Group, teamed with HOK, was selected to design the expansion, using a previously completed jail needs study of current and future jail space needs as a guide. The project focuses on new jail pods and adds approximately 150 new direct supervision cells, with the space to accommodate one more pod with approximately 50 additional cells in future phases.

A significant focus of the project is improving the care provided to inmates who have mental health needs. The new cell counts will include separate mental health facilities, as well as the ability to improve classification across the general population, enhance inmate management across genders, and provide the facilities necessary to accommodate best practices related to staff-inmate communication and proactive inmate management.

Additional features include:

  • New laundry facilities.
  • New food service facilities.
  • Renovated portion of the existing linear jail to expand health and other inmate services.
  • Roof and window replacement at the existing jail.
  • Utility upgrades, including new gas and water services.
  • Improvements to the building’s fire protection system.
  • Upgrades to the HVAC system.

Among the other issues addressed in this project was the suitability of the site initially selected for the addition. The county intended for the addition to be attached directly to the east side of the existing jail facility. However, the land immediately adjacent to the building is a former street that had been abandoned but not vacated. It was determined that critical public utility infrastructure still runs under the former street and could not be disturbed. As a result, the design had to place the addition “across the street,” with a sky bridge designed to connect the two structures at an upper level.