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State selects Sundt-Layton to construct $169M expansion at Otay Mesa prison

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The project will cover approximately 35 acres and include up to three separate housing units. Image courtesy Sundt Construction

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recently selected Sundt-Layton, a joint venture of Sundt Construction Inc. and Layton Construction, as the design-build contractor for a new $168.7 million, 792-bed facility for medium-security inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.

The project is one of two “infill” projects the department proposed a couple of years ago, said CDCR spokesman Bill Sessa, and is intended to provide more capacity for the Donovan correctional facility’s overall inmate population.

“Donovan is a medium-security institution that has a lot of rehabilitation programs. So, the kind of facilities we're building are for medium-security inmates that are eligible for all that rehabilitation,” Sessa said. “It's part of our plan to ensure there's adequate space in all of our institutions for the medical and mental health programs.”

Sundt-Layton, one of three design-build entities the department selected to compete for the project, will design and construct the 317,000-square-foot housing facility with Phoenix-based Arrington Watkins Architects.

According to the contractors, the project will include three Level II (medium security), 264-bed housing units. In addition to the housing units, the project will include programming, health care, visitation and other support components.

According to a document from the department, the correctional facility project will cover approximately 35 acres. The housing units will each be about 40,000 square feet and approximately 26 feet tall. A communal recreational area will be between the housing units. The total estimated floor area will be nearly 258,800 square feet, of which an estimated 45,000 square feet will be program space.

Additionally, the document said the project will be enclosed by double-cyclone perimeter fencing with a lethal electrified fence between the two fences with towers that will serve as the pedestrian and vehicular sally ports into the secure perimeter (to be staffed 24 hours a day), interior and perimeter security lighting, and a vehicle patrol road.

The project will be operated by, and under the authority of CDCR, but will be independent and self-contained, with all necessary related support buildings and inmate programming space to meet the needs of various inmates, including, but not limited to, those with disabilities, intermediate medical needs, or mental health needs.

“These are not specifically medical or mental-health beds (at Donovan). We are under court order to improve our mental health and medical care to inmates. We've spent about $2 billion in the last three years to build new medical care and mental health facilities,” Sessa said, citing the California Correctional Health Care Facility in Stockton, which has almost 3,000 beds devoted specifically to inmates requiring medical or mental health care.

“But in a lot of our institutions, we simply needed to enlarge the capacity of the institution so there was space within the institution to provide more medical and mental health care,” Sessa said.

The department’s document reported that the correctional facility will have an annual operating budget of $5.5 million and will employ approximately 193 staff members, including correctional officers, medical and mental health personnel, vocational and educational staff, facility maintenance personnel and administrative support staff.

The facility will include at least 207 parking spaces.

The project is funded as part of Chapter 42, Statutes of 2012, (Senate Bill 1022), which authorizes and directs the department to design and construct three Level II dorm facilities adjacent to one or more existing department institutions.

As part of the selection process, it was proposed that the Donovan facility would receive one Level II dorm facility.

“I imagine some of the preliminary groundwork will start probably within another four or five weeks,” Sessa said, adding that projected completion is expected in the “spring of next year.”

-Lovitt is a La Jolla-based freelance writer.

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