Big cavernous rooms. Inmates climbing up and down stairs. Metal correctional furniture placed on top of hard concrete floor surfaces. And in many cases, overcrowding and the massive amount of talking, yelling and other chatter that goes along with it.
It’s sufficed to say that correctional facilities can be extremely noisy environments. Historically speaking, prisons and jails have been designed with safety and security in mind first, with aesthetics and acoustics coming in a distant second.
In the end what you sometimes get is big, noisy spaces with institutional furniture that does nothing to make these spaces any quieter. That is unless designers, architects and prison officials make conscious efforts to improve these conditions. And today, unlike the past, they have options when choosing correctional furniture that is aesthetically pleasing, highly durable, secure and that come with sound dampening qualities.
Why noise matters
So what’s the problem with a little noise? Consider this: Prisons in many cases are already volatile places where violence – both physical and sexual in nature – occurs on a daily basis. The constant drum of noise can add to or create this volatility due to the aggravation it can cause. And it’s not just the inmates that are exposed to the excessive bedlam. Staff is just as vulnerable.
According to an article on Corrections.com, “Exposure to loud noises for an extended period of time can lead to increased negative biological and psychological effects. According to researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, excessive noise levels are also associated with patterns of increased irritability and aggression and decreased cooperation. Also, excessive noise levels in correctional settings are associated with increased levels of stress and heightened safety and security concerns among staff.”
So what are your furniture options? In most cases it’s those products that use materials that compliment or are alternatives to steel.
Metal tables with fixed legs and seats have been a staple in correctional facilities for decades. Now imagine dozens of these tables lined up in a dayroom or cafeteria and the noise that is created by hundreds of food trays or other items being dropped on the table tops.
It’s enough to get on anyone’s last nerve.
That’s why Norix Furniture created Quietcore® table tops which feature metal on the outside and particle board interiors. This technology comes with the same durability and safety features as other metal correctional tables, but the particle board also absorbs much of the noise that occurs due to the constant pounding that metal tops take in these environments.
If you are looking for an even quieter option that absorbs more sound, consider our Max Master (photo, above right), X-Base, Leg Style and Jupiter tables. These products are manufactured with high-impact laminate tops that are just as durable, and less noisy, than metal tops. They, too, are equipped with particle board interiors for the ultimate in sound dampening.
Other alternatives include our Forte™ Café Table which features high impact laminate tops with particle board interiors and molded edges for sanitation control. They look residential and come with polyethylene bases that can be ballasted with weight for security. Lastly, these alternative material options not only absorb the noise, they also produce less of it in the first place.
Watch our table durability video to see how to see our products stand up to high-impact testing.
Chairs are tricky in correctional environments. You need them in great numbers. But how do you balance safety, comfort and durability in a product and reduce noise? Again, moving away from metal or steel is one answer.
One such option is Norix Furniture’s Forte™ Guest and Lounge Chairs. These rotomolded chairs (photo, left) are highly durable, aesthetically pleasing and are made of polyethylene and come with an upholstery option, making these chairs extremely quiet and sound absorbent. Check out photos of this product at the new San Diego County Women’s Detention Center to see them in a corrections environment and watch them stand up to a garden tiller and construction compounder in our durability video.
Additionally, facilities can take sound dampening up a notch higher with our Hondo Nuevo®Lounge Series. You can actually “squeeze” this rotomolded product (which is very quiet when sat on or leaned upon) with your hand, making it yet another product that effectively absorbs noise instead of creating it.
But don’t be fooled. Hondo Nuevo® is made with a thick vinyl skin and 3 lb. density polyurethane foam filling and is highly durable and puncture resistant. Don’t believe us? Watch our durability video to see a chair get crushed to its base then fully recover within seconds.
Steel bunk beds are still used and are still appropriate for some spaces in correctional facilities. It’s hard to imagine a day when you will see a crowded sleeping area with polyethylene or vinyl double bunks. In these spaces, metal is the go to option, despite the clanging and other noise you will get from inmates climbing all over these products.
However, for single or double occupied cells, there are products, like our Attenda® Platform Beds (above), that are highly durable, easy to clean and (you guessed it) made especially to absorb sound. These polyethylene products can be bolted to the floor and in the corner, and are water/fluid resistant. They are rotomolded in a high impact polymer and filled with rigid structural foam for strength and sound absorption. Watch our durability video to see how the bed performs under high distress.
All of the Norix products mentioned here come in a variety of colors, including our New Naturals and High Brights Color Palettes. In fact, research shows that color humanizes institutional environments, balances mental equilibrium and reduces behavioral discord.
Additionally, these correctional furniture products are designed to more closely resemble residential furniture, which in turn promotes dignity and socialization among both inmates and staff.