Across America, over 2.3 million men and women are held in thousands of prisons and jails. Like small cities, these facilities require all the amenities and products for day-to-day life, from electromechanical locks to institutional bedding, and many of these facilities count on Cornerstone Detention Products to provide them.
Cornerstone works with clients on everything from planning and jail design to renovation of existing facilities, security requirements, supplies, and more. The company offers innovative pre-construction services, which help lower overall construction expenses on projects of all sizes. It can help with budgeting, design-build services, total lifecycle costs, security consulting, and even security consultation and in-house fabrication of metal fixtures.
Cornerstone Founder and Chief Executive Officer Charles ‘Mitch’ Claborn has been involved in correction-related businesses for forty years. Back in 1979, Claborn took college classes in the evenings and ran the blueprint machine by day as a co-op student for a company called Willo Products. He remained at Willo until a split in ownership in 1982 when he joined the prison division of a new company called Roanoke Iron and Bridge, which opened an office in Decatur, Alabama. Here, he was as a drafting supervisor until 1984 when he joined Norment Industries in Montgomery, Alabama, where he served for five years as a project manager.
“This really opened my eyes to the industry and required a lot of travel for a southern boy,” he says. The travel made him realize just how big the market had become. After Norment was sold in 1989, he moved back to Alabama because of his mother’s terminal cancer and took a local sales job.
Claborn soon left to work with his friend Daryl Slate whom he knew from his Willo days. Slate had started a company that made detention equipment products in its steel manufacturing shop, and Claborn went to work with him in 1990. Growth was tremendous, but Slate decided to sell the business in 1997, and the two parted ways.
After unsuccessfully attempting to purchase Slate Security Systems, Claborn started Cornerstone Detention Products, Inc. in 1998 and has never looked back. Cornerstone was created in a room above his garage along with sister company Claborn Manufacturing, which manufactures and sells metal security doors, door systems, frames, windows, and detention furniture.
In just over a decade, the company has emerged as the world’s foremost detention and security contractor, manufacturer, and supplier, serving over one thousand facilities and employing three hundred people. It operates primarily in the United States with some international clients.
The company grew organically, and then in 2013, it purchased Security Design Incorporated and E.O. Integrated Systems, Inc. The next year, Cornerstone bought Norment Industries, started a mattress plant in Highpoint, North Carolina to make correctional mattresses, and named the company C3. M2H2 Holdings was formed in 2017. It then acquired Slate Security and rebranded it as the Claborn Manufacturing Company to diversify its sheet metal manufacturing portfolio. Further acquisitions followed.
“We are expecting heavy growth for the next three years, and the expansion of Claborn Manufacturing will be double-digit growth due to the technology and the equipment,” says Claborn.
The company’s other investments include a 300,000-square-foot Saginaw Steering Gear Plant this year. Additionally, the business is in the middle of a $40,000,000 renovation and robotic equipment purchase to create the first smart factory for detention equipment products. The new facility is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020 and will have over 300,000 square feet of space under roof, on a lot of thirty-five acres.
Cornerstone is planning to move to South Limestone Industrial Park in Tanner, Alabama. Staying in Alabama is essential to the company, as is being in the metropolitan area of Huntsville, which is growing rapidly and is predicted to be the largest city in Alabama in the next decade. “With this kind of growth, we feel that this is a great location to attract a technologically advanced workforce,” states Claborn.
The company has worked on many projects, including California’s San Quentin State Prison, Kansas’ Lansing Correctional Facility, and even the Toronto South Detention Centre in Canada. The Lansing Correctional Facility was formerly known as the Kansas State Penitentiary and was built by prison labor and opened in 1868. Reconstruction and expansion were much needed. Cornerstone Detention Products worked with the construction team by providing design assistance and value engineering.
“As the detention equipment and security electronics contractor, Cornerstone provided purchasing and installation of security hollow metal doors/frames, detention furniture, security ceiling, security hardware, security glazing, PLC (programmable logic controllers) locking controls, intercom systems, and video system integration,” according to the company.
The project, in conjunction with architect TreanorHL and consulting firm DL Group, was fast-tracked so that it could be completed in twenty-four months.
In just a decade, Cornerstone has received many awards, certifications, and other recognition for its outstanding projects and service. These include the award of merit from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in 2018 for the East County Detention Center in Indio, California and the award of merit from ABC’s North Alabama chapter in 2017 for the St. Clair Correctional Facility security improvements in the category for general contractor institutional projects of less than $5 million.
Cornerstone has also been ranked in 2017 and 2016 as one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing private companies and recognized by the likes of the American Subcontractors Association, Engineering News-Record, Business Alabama, and others for its outstanding work.
Currently, the company has ten locations and plans to add at least two new offices a year. Cornerstone also continues to introduce additional services and new products to the marketplace, such as ‘The Defender,’ a high-security, surface-mounted lock with visual indication and a patent-pending security feature. This product is primarily used in the renovation market, but the company is developing an application for new construction.
Claborn Manufacturing is operated by Mitch’s brothers – with Cornerstone being its largest customer – and is investigating other industries. “Claborn Manufacturing will have excess capacity with our new equipment, and we are actively pursuing other business, especially in the automotive sector, since Huntsville, Alabama and Alabama, in general, has been so active in the sector.”
With Cornerstone being a service provider and contractor and Claborn a manufacturer, combining the two into one company is a distinct possibility in the future. “We are progressive thinkers, and we value our customers, and we operate with integrity!”