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Polk County Juvenile Detention Center


Polk County was looking for a secure detention care center to replace its outdated facility while utilizing the same site. With numerous security and infrastructure problems, the existing building was no longer able to house juveniles ages 12 to 17 who have been ordered by courts or law enforcement agencies to be temporarily held.

Because this group may be considered a flight risk for court appearances, or may be a threat to the community or to themselves, secure spaces were crucial – but so was the desire to offer a calming, well-ordered environment that didn’t look like a cold, unwelcoming prison.


The design of the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center emphasizes Polk County Youth Services’ educational offerings, and encourages personal responsibility, accountability and respect for self and others.

Stepping away from the “big house” image associated with similar juvenile detention facilities, the detention center incorporates sloping rooflines to blend with the adjacent housing areas. It also makes use of materials such as terrazzo and exposed brick and masonry on the interior. An education suite includes five individual classrooms, a life skills area, multipurpose activity space, a teacher workroom and a library. Classrooms are designed to support youth as they go through programs that involve diversity education, current events, anger management skills and community service.

Through either a single control at the facility, or from Polk County’s downtown jail <<LINK HERE TO JAIL PROFILE>>, staff members can manage many Polk County Juvenile Detention Center building systems, from lighting and ventilation to security door locks and monitoring systems. The facility’s centrally located main control room provides 24/7/365 visual and audio surveillance of secured spaces through a custom-designed security system.

To create a calming, welcoming environment, there are no security fences on the property. Instead, outdoor recreation areas are in enclosed courtyards. The building was also designed to decrease vehicular traffic near the adjacent residential areas.


The Polk County Juvenile Detention Center provides juveniles with a second chance at life through a quiet, well-ordered and secure residential environment. Thanks to the building’s structural and architectural design, and creative use of masonry, the project received an Award of Merit with Recognition from the Masonry Institute of Iowa’s 2002 Architectural Design Award Program.
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