Wissehr Electrical Contractors


Graham Correctional Center

Working in the Big House

A medium-security prison for the Illinois Department of Corrections in Hillsboro, Graham Correctional Center is home to 3500 inmates. Built in the 1970s, the prison was experiencing high-voltage failures. It had underground, medium- voltage distribution, some of which was direct burial. Wissehr discovered that some of it had deteriorated almost to the end of its lifecycle, which was causing the outages.

Safety and security were key considerations. Wissehr installed a new medium-voltage distribution system while keeping the old one working. Once electricians put a loop in place, they took a section of the prison out of service, changed the power and put it back in service in a very short period. But the real challenge was working within t he prison’s constricting rules while on prison property.

The Good Guys Win

Inside prison, almost anything can become a weapon. Prison rules dictate that contractors build a staging area for their equipment within the prison that meets specific requirements. For example, it must have a double cyclone fence with razor wire on it. The staging area becomes a compound within a compound. Contractors must follow stringent inventory rules for tools, with guards checking them out for service and back in after use. In addition, a contractor can’t enter prison property before 8 a.m. and must leave at 4 p.m.

To facilitate project flow, Wissehr electricians created their own staging area by renting three acres of cornfield across the street from the prison. With military precision, every morning they arrived at 7 a.m. and prepared the equipment. At 8 a.m., the Wissehr convoy roared through the gate, ready for work. At 4 p.m., electricians went across the street, unloaded the trucks, prefabricated materials and reloaded for the next day.

Prison officials thought Wissehr’s ideas and procedures were great innovations. They didn’t have to provide as many security officers because Wissehr left nothing behind to check in or out. They also appreciated Wissehr’s professionalism and efficiency.

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