Prisons 2019: Re-imagining Support Spaces in Correctional Facilities
Yesterday our Justice Studio Principal, Anthea Doyle, spoke at the Prisons 2019 Conference in Brisbane. Taking place across 9 – 10 July the conference is an opportunity for Academics, Designers, Policy Makers and Corrections Experts to consider the future of the sector.
Anthea discussed the concept of creating normalised spaces within correctional centres. From visitation areas to holding cells and learning environments, there is an opportunity to create spaces that align to life outside the wire.
Referencing the International Red Cross’ guide titled “Towards Humane Prisons” Anthea highlighted key principles that impact an inmate’s ability to successfully reintegrate in to society. These principles include doing no harm, maintaining a connection with society, as well as promoting health and personal growth.
The concept of creating normality in an institutional environment is not new. If we consider Healthcare providers, by taking a patient focused approach to the design of hospitals research shows that patients recover more quickly. The same applies to correctional facilities. In NSW approximately 96% of people in custody will be released and will re-enter the community at some point.
Anthea considered how we can improve the design of three key areas to help support inmates, staff and visitors:
When an individual enters a prison for the first time, the first experience they have with a facility is being transported in a vehicle, being unloaded in a vehicle dock and being moved in to a holding cell. Inmates might spend hours waiting. Often in older facilities these holding cells are poorly lit with long dark corridors with concrete walls floors and ceilings. These environments no doubt increase stress and anxiety in inmates.
Anthea suggested including flexible seating options made from various materials such as timber seating, moulded chairs and vinyl applied to benches. She highlighted the importance of good acoustics and natural lighting through big external windows with views in the to distance. Anthea also highlighted the possibility of creating active waiting opportunities. This can be achieved by incorporating technology and providing access to external spaces with secure yards.
Offering regular visitations is fundamental to reducing re-offending. By maintaining relationships with the outside world, people who are incarcerated have better support networks for reintegration in to society on release. Yet many visit spaces have limited natural light, very poor acoustics, no outdoor areas, low ceilings, limited activities for children and officers sit in full steel and secure glass areas.
Anthea drew from her experience of delivering Dillwynia female Correctional Centre. Her team have started to incorporate key areas of improvement including separate children’s play zones; removing glass from the officer posts to improve interaction between officers, visitors and inmates; maximising natural lighting; improving acoustics and creating curved flooring finished to delineate circulation spaces from seating.
Learning environments in correctional facilities aim to make inmates more employable by improving their skills and education. By gaining literacy, numeracy and vocational skills, inmates are less likely to re-offend. It is key to design these spaces in line with industry best practice.
Drawing from Dilwynia Correctional Centre, Anthea discussed principles of flexibility, opportunities for indoor and outdoor shared learning, as well as creating spaces for personal study away from more structured teaching.
For more information about the conference click here.