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Spotlight: How SteelCell is assisting correctional facilities with security and safety of detention units

“Some people still expect correctional facilities to be concrete, dungeon-like structures, but the stats show these environments don’t help with recidivism,” the company said

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Company name: SteelCell
Headquarters: Baldwin, Ga.
Signature Product: Polyurea-coated living environments for two people

1. Where did your company name originate from?

We wanted a clear brand name that resonated with the market. Quite simply, we’re making steel jail cells. The foundation of the logo comes from the good craftsmanship of the almost indestructible and infinitely appealing builds of 50s and 60s automobiles.

2. What was the inspiration behind starting your company?

We worked with a company several years ago that was trying to convert an existing North Carolina city building into a justice center. The company was founded in the shipbuilding industry, which was advantageous because they could come up with a lightweight solution.

The company did the doors, frames and windows for the justice center. When we saw what they were doing and saw that they were shipbuilders instead of part of the industry, we decided we could design something that’s a step or two above.

The concept of using steel as a room has been around since the 1800s. Back then, jails were one or two cells. As numbers increased, we needed different ways to scale. Some of those were vertical, some of them were in areas where there were special needs according to soil conditions or availability of labor.

As we entered the industry, we committed ourselves to creating:

  • Better solutions for behavioral and mental health
  • Customizations suitable for juvenile facilities
  • Safe and sanitary shower units with moisture-resistant coating

3. What is your signature product and how does it work?

We specialize in polyurea-coated living environments for two people. The environments we build are:

  • Two-bed, safe and secure environment for inhabitants and staff. We use polyurea coating to make environments safe, non-slip, vandal resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and capable of withstanding the harshest cleaning products.

The product is evolving and dynamic, and we’re always incorporating the latest technology.
4. Why do you believe your products are essential to the corrections community?

We believe prefabricated units are vital structures necessary for life today. Society can benefit from having safe and sanitary living environments for justice infrastructure, mental health, secure infrastructure and even housing.

5. What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?

Changing paradigms for how things are built. The U.S. is a little slower than other places in the world when it comes to adopting prefabricated construction. Some people still expect correctional facilities to be concrete, dungeon-like structures, but the stats show these environments don’t help with recidivism or anything like that.

We don’t believe in locking people up and throwing away the key. Fortunately, the ethos has shifted in the past couple of decades and people are starting to understand how important it is to create a safe and sanitary living environment.

6. What makes your company unique?

We can take published national standards for justice centers for behavioral health environments and create something that meets the needs of any building, plot of land or organization. We know there are different requirements in different states and jurisdictions, and we are completely customized.

Our structures don’t have to be like anything that has ever been built before. No two areas or justice projects should be alike because conditions are always different.

What makes our product so unique in a prefab world is that we can adjust based on designers, whether a place is urban or rural and more.

7. What do your customers like best about you and your products?

We do a good job of trying to listen and adapt. Our products are often ready long before the job site is ready. We speed up timelines and have the capacity and financial stability to accommodate all kinds of situations. We’ve also been told our quality is second to none.

My granddad taught me to deliver more than what’s required and it will turn people into repeat customers.

8. What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?

We’re passionate about solving problems. Usually, we’re dealing with people who have been working for years in buildings that haven’t been serving their needs. This is possibly dangerous, unsanitary and it doesn’t meet today’s standards in the justice world.

We can help find land, move buildings through public acceptance and build around budgets.

We love seeing people who are glad to have a new wonderful space to work, especially when we see how these new buildings compare to what they had before.

9. Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety or the community? Tell us more.

Yes. We support a lot of local causes for law enforcement and youth homes. The Georgia Sheriff’s Association is probably the organization we’ve supported the longest. The majority of business we do is with small and medium jurisdictions, so we support a lot of local initiatives in the communities we serve.

10. Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share about you or your company?

  • Fact 1: You know how most people are seven degrees from Kevin Bacon? Most people would be shocked that they are three degrees of separation from the justice system. The justice system is massive and this surprises a lot of people.
  • Fact 2: We did a project for the U.S. military. We couldn’t talk about it for years and years, but now National Geographic is doing a special on it. To this day, our units are still the only ones used in Guantanamo Bay. We were told we were, by far, the most qualified to be there.
  • Fact 3: Most people look at justice as “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” Most people don’t realize that the majority of the people you know and love have someone who has been in a correctional facility. How we treat them between the time when they have to go into the justice system and come back affects the community. These people are citizens who broke the law. They could be your relative or your neighbor. This is why we have to do things the right way.

11. What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?

We want to address the need for better mental health solutions. The large majority of people who pass through the justice system have a diagnosed mental or behavioral health issue. Usually, facilities aren’t equipped to accommodate those challenges and we believe we can change that.

We’re also starting to move more into different types of construction, like medical construction. As our population grows and ages, the need for medical beds is only growing.

We’re also interested in how we can use our justice security technology in markets that didn’t exist 20 years ago, like data centers. We’ve learned a lot about securing environments from justice. The average person generates 1.5 gigabytes of data from their cellphone and this all needs to be stored and protected. We can apply our security know-how for phone providers, cloud servers and more.

We look forward to diversifying our company from the justice center to leaders where our skillsets can also be an asset.