What Happens When Inmates Design Their Own Prisons?

Shaunacy Ferro (Fast Company) | August 19, 2014

Anthony Pratt prison designInmates in San Francisco’s County Jail No. 5 recently got the chance to contribute their own suggestions for how the physical spaces of incarceration should be designed. At a workshop with architect Deanna VanBuren and restorative justice scholar Barb Toews, 18 attendees, mostly inmates who are currently awaiting trial for violent crimes, created architectural models that represented how they might change the architecture of the justice system, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Restorative justice programs such as these attempt to rehabilitate inmates in order to lower the chances that they’ll re-offend once released from jail. But in America, maximum-security prisons are commonly cold, solitary places that have a dehumanizing effect on the inmates which reside in them. Some of the reasons are pragmatic–long rows of solitary cells make it easier for guards to control a violent population. But if these places are to be the rehabilitating institutions they were originally expected to be, there are some who believe that we should be asking the prisoners themselves what they need to get the most out the process.

In this case, the prisoners discussed their feelings about the system that landed them there, and talked about their environment could be redesigned. Inmates proposed everything from waterfalls, to atriums, to computer rooms. Many of the designs called for the implementation of natural light. And while some of the specific ideas that came from the brainstorm may be a little too progressive for the American prison system, the general sentiment from the inmates could provide valuable input in future designs:

A towering, broad-chested man with full tattoos adorning both arms, Pratt, 29, was among those sketching out new visions: an airy room with a skylight to cure vitamin D deficiencies and a fountain with a cascading waterfall to represent resilience and adaptability. Privacy barriers for the shower and toilet. A healing center with lots of windows and, in the middle, a talking circle with a sun emblazoned in its center.

But this raises a bigger question about what prison is for; does making it a cushy place to live sort of defeat the point? Perhaps, but consider the stats: The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and its prison system is much more focused on punishing criminals than trying to reform them into productive members of society. It keeps 80,000 U.S. prisoners in a form of long-term solitary isolation that the U.N. considers a form of torture. Once released, a huge number of those prisoners end up re-offending.

Read more at: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3034527/what-happens-when-inmates-design-their-own-prisons

Photo credit: Lee Romney / Los Angeles Times

Posted by on Aug 19 2014. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

*

Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google

Photo Gallery

Log in |
  • Home
  • Hispanic Gangs
  • Homies Figures – The Original Homies
  • Prison Gangs
  • The Inside Man – Confidential Informant, Los Angeles Gangs & the LAPD
  • Email
  • Connecticut Drug Threat Assessment report – 2003
  • Dianne Feinstein Report, The Gang Prevention and Effective Deterrence Act: Combating the Spread of Gang Violence – 2003
  • National Alliance of Gang Investigators 2005
  • L.A. Area Terrorized by Marauding Youngsters
  • Other Cities
  • Three persons were killed by shotgun blast in hotel on Vermont Avenue, 1979
  • Jamiel’s Law, proposed by Mayoral candiate Walter Moore
  • MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA, CHIEF BRATTON, AND LOCAL AND FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ANNOUNCE MAJOR CRACKDOWN ON L.A. STREET GANGS
  • Los Angeles Police Gang Enforcement Initiaitives – 2007
  • My Kingdom Come – 2015
  • Passing of Vincent A Alonso
  • Bibliography on street gangs for the gang researcher
  • Cal State Long Beach T-Shirt from “Oldest Bloods” Series
  • Four Pacc Crips car alliance
  • SG Music Group
  • Crip Gangs
  • Bloods
  • Asian Gangs
  • Forums
  • Shop
  • Injunctions
  • Contact information streetgangs.com
  • Resources
  • Contact