Tucson United States Penitentiary and Federal Prison Camp

Owner: Federal Bureau of Prisons, Washington, D.C.
Tucson, AZ

Architect of Record: Arrington Watkins, Phoenix, AZ
Design Architect: Arrington Watkins/HSMM, PLLC, Phoenix, AZ
Structural Engineer: Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
Construction Management: Luster National, Inc., Bakersfield, CA
General Contractor: Dick Pacific Construction Co., Ltd., Phoenix, AZ
Concrete Contractor: General Concrete Contractor: Lithko Contracting, Inc. (concrete foundations, slabs), Avondale, AZ
Site-Cast Concrete Cell Unit Contractor: Rotondo Weirich Enterprises, Lederach, PA
Site-Cast Tilt-Up Concrete Wall Panel Contractor: Seretta Construction, Inc. (concrete), Apopka, FL
Precast Concrete Contractor: Coreslab Structures, Inc., Phoenix, AZ
Reinforcing Bar Fabricator: Lithko Contracting, Inc., Avondale, AZ
Total Project Cost: $114 million (estimated).
Total Project Size: 627,622 sq ft
Structural Framing System: Cast-in-place concrete 2nd floor, site-cast concrete cell units, precast double tees and planks, site-cast tilt-up concrete walls (General Housing Units)
Building Height/Floors: 24 feet/2 floors (General Housing Units)


The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) mandated design and construction of a penitentiary and federal prison camp in Tucson, AZ that would meet their Technical Design Guidelines for security while also meeting the facility needs for a hot, dry desert region, and responding as well to and blending architecturally with the Southwestern regional environment. Further, FBOP sought a solution that:

  • Incorporated energy-reduction systems;
  • Provided lower operating costs;
  • Employed where practical “green” building materials and systems; and
  • Featured a uniform and straightforward design.

The owner also expected that the design-build team members (the general contractor, architect, engineers, and the owner) would be full partners in this project, and communicate regularly in a trusting and constructive manner that would eliminate hesitation or adoption of an oppositional attitude when situations arose on site.

The FBOP is responsible for the safe, humane, and appropriately secure confinement of some 180,000 federal prisoners in more than 100 facilities across the entire nation. The FBOP faces challenges to build newer, safer, more modern facilities that are economical to construct, operate and maintain. The FBOP also expects its new facilities to withstand many years of hard use.

The design-build team set out to incorporate a high level of collaborative value-added engineering/construction into the Tucson project. Fulfilling this intent was a major challenge due to the strict technical design guidelines. The design-build team carefully examined the client’s Request for Proposal together to identify and collaboratively work to take advantage of the limited available opportunities for enhancing and exceeding FBOP’s project expectations while reducing costs and delivery time. The team’s innovation and creativity was evident in designing, fabricating, and installing in general housing units a concrete security enclosure with clear span double tee-beams that resulted in a column-free dayroom space with unobstructed visibility for guard personnel.