Key considerations for sobering and safety cells

Depending upon on the needs and mandates of each correctional facility, a sobering room — otherwise known as the “drunk tank” — can be designed accordingly

Jail facility booking areas are usually built to include both sobering and safety cells. Intoxicated or suicidal subjects who are booked into jail need to be kept under close watch and held in a place where they can’t physically harm themselves and will not be a threat to officers or other facility staff.

Sobering and safety cells can be constructed in every shape and size. Depending upon on the needs and mandates of each correctional facility, a sobering room — otherwise known as the “drunk tank” — can be designed accordingly. When designing a new safety cell remain mindful of the following considerations.

Jail facility sobering cells are intended to keep inmates safe. Generally, inmates are placed into a sobering cell when under the influence and directed to be on safety checks by medical personnel or jail supervisors. When inmates are placed into a sobering cell or a safety cell, there needs to be documentation of the inmate’s wellbeing at specified time intervals. 

Visibility of individuals placed into the safety or sobering cell is of utmost importance. The ability to observe each inmate’s welfare while maintaining officer safety is absolutely necessary.

Inmates who are under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances must be protected from any potential threats of injury or self-harm. Sobering and safety cells must be constructed free of seams, creases, sharp or protruding edges which can potentially injure the inmate. Most of the sobering cells are padded with materials that are virtually indestructible. Materials applied to surfaces can safely withstand the unpredictable and erratic physical behaviors of intoxicated inmates such as gripping, gouging and attempts to damage the room where they are detained.

Sobering cells can be constructed with a complete padded surface system. Installation of padded surfaces can help reduce facility liabilities, prevent injury to the inmate with minimal maintenance requirements. 

The sobering cell padding can be installed in almost any room and on nearly any surface including walls, floors, doors and ceilings. Many padded surfaces are constructed of a durable material such as liquid vinyl or resin. Some even offer an application of a bullet resistant layer. These liquid coatings can be applied in sheets of one and a half inch thickness to existing walls, doors, floors or new construction with a bond base coat. The liquid padding systems resist peeling or chipping and are simple to clean. Padding can also be constructed with Neoprene rubber materials that can be sized in sheets to fit to any facility wall, floors or any other surfaces.

Many manufacturers offer padded surfaces which are fire retardant, water resistant or repellant and damage resistant to bodily fluids such as urine or feces. The padded material can be easily cleaned with a mild liquid detergent.

All jail facility sobering and safety cells must be constructed to the specifics of the correctional facility policy requirements and state mandates. Some policies specify exact footage of each safety or sobering cell floor plan with a specified maximum and minimum measurements. Most states require specific placements of a toilet, wash basin, and water access for drinking. 

Toilets are often required to be set without seams at attachment points. This is to deter tampering and destruction of the toilet and surrounding surfaces. Wall and ceiling mounted devices such as cameras or air vents must be inaccessible to any safety or sobering cell occupant.

Additional Options
Other features to consider when constructing safety, sobering cells and booking area of a jail facility include cuff rings for booking benches, wall mounted recessed cuff bars, suicide resistant wall mounted grips and door hand ports for booking cell doors. Other options are detention modesty panels and steel detention bench seating.

Jail facility safety and sobering cells are intended to separate inmates who are intoxicated, uncooperative, suicidal or homicidal from the rest of the inmate population to eliminate any risk of injury or disturbance. When designing a sobering or safety cell, keep in mind there are several options available for creating a cost-effective, low maintenance, safe and code compliant environment to suit the needs of any jail facility.

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