High-density mobile storage transforms inmate property storage at Arapahoe County Detention Center from a safety hazard to an ideal work environment.
T he detention facility in Arapahoe County, Colorado has come a long way since the doors to a one-room jailhouse in Littleton first opened in 1865. After many years of operating in a small facility, the nearly 300,000 square foot Arapahoe County Detention Center opened in 1987, followed by an addition in 1999. The facility receives an average of 17,000 arrests per year. Arapahoe County has a population of just over 572,000 people, and is the third most-populous county in the state of Colorado—and a fairly aggressive increase in population has led to an increase in crime.
One of the best examples of this growth is at the Inmate Property Storage department at Arapahoe County Detention Center. The department was in desperate need of additional storage space in its small footprint, as long- and short-term inmate property storage fluctuates with the capacity of the detention center’s population—which is anywhere between 850 to 1,300 inmates at any given time. “With our small area and high volume, we knew we had to get creative with our horizontal and vertical space,” says Sue White, Arapahoe County’s Inmate Property Supervisor.
The population of Arapahoe County, Colorado. The county is one of 64 in the state, and is the third-most populous.
However, there was another issue that was rearing its head at Inmate Property Storage. Not only had Arapahoe outgrown its storage space, but it also outgrew the laundry-garment rack system it was using to organize inmate property. Not only was it overloaded and inefficient, it was a safety hazard that was having an impact on the staff’s work environment. With frequent breakdowns and bags falling apart and off hangers, staff would often have to crawl beneath the racks to retrieve what they needed. The outdated system needed to be replaced—but adding more space wasn’t an option.
White remembered that Arapahoe County’s headquarters had installed a high-density mobile storage system for property and evidence storage as well as records, and after several particularly difficult days in the department, she called Spacesaver to work out a solution.
The number of arrests Arapahoe County Detention Center receives every year.
After surveying the inmate property storage room and it size, Spacesaver designed a powered, high-density mobile storage system that was able to optimize all available vertical and horizontal space, effectively doubling the capacity for inmate property. Inmate property is now stored on labeled plastic totes and sit on heavy-duty metal shelving, adjusted to fit the height and width of the containers.
With the space saved by the powered mobile system, the department was able to add a second mechanical-assist mobile system in the same area, this one outfitted with larger shelves to store bulk property such as televisions and large backpacks. This cut down on transaction time—the time staff spent retrieving particular items for inmates and putting other items away—as these longer-term items used to be in satellite storage, only accessible through doors that people in other departments had to open and close.
A wall of stationary shelving was also added along a wall adjacent to the mobile system for the inmate property that was awaiting processing into the system as well as everyday materials such as inmate-issue clothing, forms, and supplies.
As increasing available space was the primary goal, White was surprised to see a few benefits of the mobile systems that she hadn’t thought of, “The mobile system has cut down dramatically on lost property,” she says, “and it’s also reduced the ugly smells that come along with maintaining personal property.”
Not only had Arapahoe outgrown its storage space, but it also outgrew the laundry-garment rack system it was using to organize inmate property. Not only was it overloaded and inefficient, it was a safety hazard that was having an impact on the staff’s work environment.
The old bag system we had was a nightmare. As busy as we are, the best thing about the new storage is the time it saves us. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re constantly accessing that property.
~ Shari Finger, Inmate Property Storage Staff Member, Arapahoe County Detention Center
White says that having items neat, clean, and easy to access has greatly reduced the stress on her staff—and has made their work lives easier. “We even have an open space for expansion,” she says. “Right now it’s being used as a break room for the staff and storage of inmate bedrolls, but those areas can easily be reconfigured at a later date to add on to the existing system.”
White’s staff can also speak to the improved work environment. “The old bag system we had was a nightmare,” staff member Shari Finger says. “As busy as we are, the best thing about the new storage is the time it saves us. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re constantly accessing that property.” Charlotte Thomas, another member of White’s staff, agrees. “It’s made things so much more convenient for us,” she says. “Now, we have all the property in one room. Not having to walk to another pod for those bulk items has doubled our efficiency.”
Working in a detention center or correctional institution can be stressful, and staff member Nancy Cox says that the revitalized storage has helped quite a bit in that regard—more than she ever would have imagined. “It has certainly made our job more enjoyable and much less stressful,” she says. “It’s a wonderful system.”