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Design

The Rise of the Prefab Prison

Repurposed shipping containers and semi-trailers are finding a new life—as jails.
Tiny home or Big House? Containerized architecture can do both.
Tiny home or Big House? Containerized architecture can do both.Madison McVeigh/CityLab

A few years ago, the Greene County Jail, an imposing concrete building in Springfield, Missouri, ran out of space. Local police officers were arresting more people than the 601-bed structure could contain.

At first, Sheriff Jim Arnott, an upbeat man with a Missouri twang, tried to squeeze more beds into each jail cell. “You always put as many people as you can in a space,” Arnott told me. “You don’t ever have an adequate amount.” Eventually, the sheriff began to outsource inmates to neighboring jails, which he said is both costly and risky.