|Detention and Correctional Facility Standards:
Their Role in Field Inspection, Testing, and Certification
by Vijay Ruikar
When standards developed by ASTM Committee F33 on Detention and Correctional Facilities were used, cost and
labor savings were realized in two California Department of Corrections
A Social Concern
It may surprise you to learn that the United States holds the
dubious distinction of having the worlds highest prison populationin
1999, the rate of incarceration in prisons and jails was 1.86
million, or 682 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents (see Table 1). This number is expected to increase to a total of two million
by the end of 2001. This presents a major challenge for detention/correctional
facilities administrators looking to minimize building costs
while inmate populations continue to skyrocket. Further aggravating
the situation is an increasingly tough public policy on crime
and punishment (e.g., the three strikes and youre out types
of laws). Prison overcrowding is all too common, emphasizing the
need for more detention/correctional facilities.
While it does not help the immense overpopulation problem in the
U.S., it is still necessary to separate certain groups of the
prison population. Separating women from men, juvenile offenders
from adult offenders and mentally ill or handicapped inmates from
the general population also exacerbates the urgent need for added
The solution seems simplejust build more prisons. But with ever-increasing
labor, material and engineering costs, building new prison facilities
is prohibitively expensive. Proximity to large urban centers is
necessary to keep operating costs, such as food and energy, low,
and to have fast access to specialists and police forces in emergencies.
This not only drives up the costs, it also raises concerns for
security, environmentally adverse effects, and concerns about
non-compliance with local building codes and ordinancesthe latter
often being enforceable by law. Without addressing the concerns
properly, the safety of the public and prisoners can be seriously
A Technological Concern
Under such difficult circumstances, it is natural to turn to technology
to solve problems. Frequently, but not always, upgrading an existing
facility is an economically better proposition compared to building
a whole new one. But how can we get a top quality new or rehabilitated
facility without some basic standards? Would it not be ideal if
the top professionals in facilities design, construction and manufacture
of building components sat together and worked out scientifically
soundand democratically acceptablevoluntary consensus standards
for answering those questions?
ASTM provides such standards. It enjoys a sterling national and
international reputation as a premier body that generates voluntary
consensus standards. Since its inception in 1988, ASTM Committee
F33 on Detention and Correctional Facilities has been diligently
creating standards specifically focused on the needs of detention/correctional
facilities. The ASTM F33 committee has published 14 standards
(see sidebar), and more are on the way. These standards represent
the ultimate in high technology and down-to earth practicality.
They are simply the best in the business.
So, how can we use F33s standards in day-to-day detention/correctional
life? Can we use them to upgrade the existing, old buildings and
facilities to meet with modern day building codes? How expensive
or cumbersome is it to do so? Can we utilize the vast, relatively
untapped pool of inmate labor to solve at least some of the problems?
Happily, the answer seems to be a resounding Yes, we can, and
we can do so very inexpensively.
Following are two recent case studies.
Case IThe California Medical Facility (CMF) at Vacaville
Built in 1955, the California Department of Corrections 3200
bed, three story, multi-wing California Medical Facility (CMF)
was practically devoid of any fire protection measures found in
modern buildings, such as fire rated door assemblies, window assemblies,
wall systems, sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, exit signs,
etc. The California State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
(CDF), inspected the facility and determined that some 180 door
assemblies needed to have a 90-minute positive pressure fire
rating,(1) (per the Uniform Building Code (UBC) Standard 7-2 (1997
edition) in addition to fulfilling its purpose as a security door
This minimum fire rating was required, because unlike the general
public, inmates in confinement cant freely escape from the facility
in the event of a fire. Secondly, the urban area has burgeoned
right into the neighborhood of the CMF, making it imperative that
the facility must conform to the building code (UBC 1997).
Originally, the plan was to replace all the old door assemblies
with properly fire rated ones. Since such replacement assemblies
can easily cost $1500 each, the material cost alone was in the
range of $270,000. Additional costs included the labor to tear
out the old assemblies from their 45 years of embedment in thick
concrete walls, the labor required to install the new assemblies,
the cost of guards to prevent security breaches, and administrative
as well as overhead costs. This could easily catapult the total
costs to well beyond a million dollars. Was there a less expensive
and less cumbersome way to get fire ratings for the door assemblies?
In search of an answer, the CMF and CDF authorities contacted
Intertek Testing Services (ITS), an accredited testing laboratory
and certification agency. Using the ASTM F33 standard F 1450,
Test Methods for Hollow Metal Swinging Door Assemblies for Detention
Facilities, ITS engineers came up with a solution. ASTM F 1450 refers to the fire test standards ASTM E 152, Standard Methods
of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, UL 10 B (UL Standard for Safety
for Fire Tests of Door Assemblies) and NFPA 252, Standard Methods
of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies. The UBC standard 7-2 (1997)
(Fire Tests of Door Assemblies) describes the positive pressure
fire test, which utilizes the same time-temperature curve for
the test furnace as in the standards, ASTM E 152, UL 10 B and
NFPA 252. With some modifications, it would be easy to satisfy
the requirements of the fire marshal deputies, and ASTM F 1450.
The strategy was to test the worst-case door assemblies as a sample.
If they passed, ITS would certify all similar assemblies. The
CMF authorities and the fire marshal deputies agreed with this
At first, an ITS engineer surveyed the facility along with the
CMF authorities and CDF fire marshal deputies, and documented
the actual state of the door assemblies with photos and drawings.
Together, they selected the two worst-case assembliesone with
a sidelight and one without a sidelight. Both had single swing
hollow metal doors and doorframes, the origins of which could
not be traced. Some hardware was from known manufacturers, but
neither the doors fire rating nor its security rating could be
known. Very little design information was available.
The CMF authorities used the engineers drawings to manufacture
duplicate frames in their maintenance facility with inmate day
labor. The selected doors (including the hinges and locks) were
removed by taking out the hinge pins, and they were shipped to
the ITS lab at Antioch, Calif., with the duplicate doorframes.
There, they were reassembled into concrete walls, to replicate
the CMF door assemblies as closely as possible. The assemblies
were subjected to the 90-minute positive pressure fire tests as
specified by ASTM F 1450, which are the same as those stated in
the UBC Standard 7-2(1997). The assemblies passed the tests.
Since the worst-case door assemblies passed the actual fire tests,
ITS has agreed to label all similar door assemblies at CMF with
90-minute fire rating (positive pressure) labels. This will be
accomplished in a post-test field inspection. This will bring
the door assemblies in compliance with the UBC-1997; representing
a whopping 42-year upgrade jump from 1955.
The total cost of this project (including the pre-test survey
and the post-test field inspections) is about $35,000less than
a small fraction of the replacement cost. Needless to say, the
authorities from the CMF, as well as the California Department
of Corrections are happy. There was no security risk, and no disruption
of the day-to-day life at CMF. The overhead costs and administrative
costs to get this project done were negligible. On the downside,
if the door assemblies had failed, the loss would have been only
about $22,000 since the post-test field inspection costs would
not be incurred.
Thus the CMF benefited from huge gains with relatively little
risk, all because of the expert use of the ASTM F 33 standards
and field inspection technique.
Case IIThe CDC Inmate Day Labor Factory, Corcoran, Calif.
In a number of detention/correctional facilities, both fire-rated
and security-rated door assemblies are sorely needed. As stated
above, the market price, as well as the cost of procuring such
door assemblies, can be prohibitively high for detention/correctional
facilities that already face serious budget crunches. Moreover,
relying on sales claims of high quality goods can be full of hazards.
Delivery schedules and transportation problems can as easily disrupt
rehabilitation projects as they do new construction. Contract
disputes can hold up deliveries for months at a time.
Several California detention/correctional facilities also faced
the all too familiar problems mentioned above. The CDC therefore,
decided to bite the bullet and resolve these problems with a
dogged determination. They decided to put to work their engineers
and inexpensive inmate day labor. At Corcoran, the CDC has an
inmate day labor (IDL) factory. When CDC engineers consulted with
ITS, the testing agencys engineers described to them ASTM F33
standards available and how they could be used. The process that
evolved through these discussions was as follows.
The CDC/IDL factory trained its inmate workers in good welding
and steel fabrication practices through certified instructors
qualified by the American Welding Society. Then, their engineers
studied the ASTM F 1450 and came up with door designs for testing
to the requirements of that test method. After a design review
in which ITS engineers found no significant defects, the CDC set
up to fabricate the test sample doors and doorframes. In a pre-test
inspection, ITS engineers witnessed and documented the test sample
door and construction, when the doors and doorframes were actually
fabricated at the CDC/IDL facility.
The documented test sample assemblies were subjected to the following
tests, all referred from ASTM F 1450:
Static load test for doors;
Rack test for doors; and
Fire test for door assemblies.
The static load test determines the mechanical strength of the
door in bending, while the rack test tests the door resistance
against a corner point load. Both tests address the strength of
a door to withstand attacks in a prison riot situation. The third
test was similar to the one done for the CMFa 90-minute fire
test to positive pressure, to UBC Standard 7-2(1997). The same
door design passed all three tests with flying colors. The CDC
has chosen to wait on the other tests in ASTM F 1450, for the
Based on this, ITS has put these products under its Listing and
Certification Label service. This means that as long as the CDC/IDL
factory (covered under this service) passes four random factory
inspections per year, they can produce an unlimited number of
listed and labeled doors and doorframes, both duly fire- and security-rated.
The total cost of the tests was about $18,000. The annual certification
costs are about $4000. If the CDC/IDL produces 1000 door assemblies
in the first year, and all the costs are amortized in the first
year, the cost per door assembly works out to be $22.00. This
is less than 1.5 percent of the $1500 market price of the door
assembly. In each subsequent year, as long as the design of the
door and the doorframe remains unchanged, only the annual certification
fee of $4000 applies, with any costs associated with certification
label printing and per label fee. Assuming that the CDC/IDL produces
the same 1000 doors, the certification cost drops down to about
$8.00 per door assembly, or 0.5 percent of the $1500 market price
of the assembly. By themselves, these costs are impressively low.
They will be even lower if the production quantity is higher than
1000 door assemblies per year.
Since inmate labor is used, these doors and doorframes are available
to CDC at a small fraction of their market price. The cost of
procurement and other administrative costs of dealing with outside
contractors, etc., mentioned are virtually eliminated. Having
such a factory at their disposal means that the CDC can upgrade/renovate
their facilities at their own convenience, hassle-free, without
having to depend on outsiders. The value of the convenience is
The intelligent use of ASTM F 33 standards for detention/correctional
facilities can result in upgraded facilities at a very small cost.
The methodology described previously is technically sound. If
used with proper expertise, it has the potential to give the detention/correctional
facilities administrators years of additional use out of the
facilities that would otherwise be discarded as being too expensive
to renovate. With many public properties such as military bases
in the process of being decommissioned, the potential for inexpensive
but technically sound renovation is indeed enormous. //
1 The 90-minute positive pressure rating means a door assembly
passed a 90-minute test in which the difference between room pressure
and outside ambient pressure is a positive number, when the pressure
is measured in the upper area of the room where hot gases have
accumulated during a fire.
Copyright 2001, ASTM