Crumbling infrastructure, deferred maintenance and rising utility bills are taking their toll on corrections budgets. Phillip Lowery, director of state government at Johnson Controls, answers questions about the issues that are important in the corrections industry and how state governments are addressing them.
Q: Welcome to a world where everything is smart, safe, comfortable and sustainable. What does this vision mean for the Department of Corrections?
PHILLIP LOWERY: Like other agencies within state government, the Department of Corrections demands safer, more comfortable and sustainable environments. Meanwhile, because of an ever-increasing population, correctional spending continues to demand a larger share of tax dollars. Unfortunately, the funding is just not available, forcing administrators to look for innovative solutions to reduce energy costs, relieve deferred maintenance issues and improve infrastructure without the use of taxpayer dollars.
Q: What does a “smart” Department of Corrections facility look like?
PL: A “smart” corrections facility creates a performance infrastructure that embraces emerging technologies to enable a safer environment for corrections officers and inmates. These emerging technologies include improvements to perimeter lighting and fencing and the ability to intercept illegal mobile phone calls and drone activity, deterring criminal activities directed from within a corrections facility. A smart facility also implements vocational programs to reduce recidivism and avoid the rising cost of housing inmates.
Q: You’ve emphasized the importance of safety and security in corrections facilities. With the Johnson Controls and Tyco merger, the new company now has one of the most comprehensive security portfolios. What most excites you around safety and security?
PL: Tyco’s core competencies have long been in fire and safety, so I’m excited about the larger suite of products and services available to us. These products work seamlessly with one another, connecting systems and providing a single interface to monitor systems and equipment and help achieve our primary mission of providing safer, more sustainable environments.
Q: So often, safety and security are linked to comfort. Why is comfort critical for the Department of Corrections?
PL: Inmates are living in our facilities, so providing for their comfort is a concern. Interestingly, many corrections agencies across the country provide heating but do not provide conditioned air within inmate housing pods. As an incentive to promote good behavior, some of these institutions reward exemplary inmates with air-conditioned pods, making comfort a privilege you earn rather than a right you demand.
Q: In addition to comfort and security, have sustainability and “green” become expectations in the industry?
PL: Sustainability and “green” are important to correctional facilities. In an interesting twist, Johnson Controls has developed a vocational program called Green HVAC for inmates in the Virginia and Louisiana Departments of Corrections who are scheduled to be released within a few years. The curriculum, which focuses on managing facilities more efficiently and sustainably, is taught through a modern learning lab that features HVAC equipment and controls, complete with desks and white boards for instructor-led training. To date, 70 percent of inmates that participated in the program obtained employment upon completing the program and are impacting recidivism rates in a positive way.
Phillip Lowery, Director, State Government, North America
As national director of state government, Phillip is responsible for growing the state government market for SSNA, including General Services, the Department of Transportation and Department of Corrections. Phillip earned an MBA from Texas Tech University, an MS degree from Clemson University, and a BA degree from the University of North Carolina.
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