RE-Design / RE-Habilitate

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Virginia Tech


During the last decade, criminal justice and prison reform in the United States has been at the core of many social organizations, rallies and protests throughout the country. While most concerns aim for increased policing, legislative change and the reduction of incarceration rates altogether, the current living conditions for inmates prove to have a significant impact on their psychological wellbeing and ultimately rehabilitation. The experience of an inmate inside a prison appears to be only a small part of the wider issue, however. The U.S. currently holds the highest incarceration rates as well as the highest rate of re-offending in the world, creating a cycle that sustains high crime levels, lack of development opportunities and no coherent plan for a successful rehabilitation. This can be partially attributed to most inmates receiving poor preparation for the outside world, without incentivizing a return to a familiar environment. Together this creates a difficult barrier between the inmates and the general public. The experience while serving a sentence can drastically affect the potential of re-offending. The seclusive approach of most jails and prisons in the US creates an internal society that differs greatly from the society to which inmates are exposed after their sentence has been served. A disassociation and hostility from the general public towards convicts further stigmatizes any interaction between them and the prisoners who ultimately will rejoin that same public. While many of the challenges faced by inmates when re-introduced into the outside society can be alleviated by policy changes, also architecture has the potential to assist in the reform the internal experience of inmates. The hypothesis here proposes that the design of a prison should be closer to an analogy of the outside world in order to generate a greater familiarity with the structures of a society in which they ultimately will have to operate after rehabilitation. This project seeks to create a micro-urban condition within an urban prison through various architectural conditions. Home, neighborhood, city are ideological moments with architectural principles that form the basis of this design approach. The elongation of the typically short paths suggests a sense of commuting. A separation of functional spaces from living spaces, combined with spaces for integration where inmates and public can meet denotes the second major deviation from a typical prison program. While still a controlled environment, it more parallels the lives of the general public, an attempt to diminish the experiential boundaries faced by inmates when they are released.



Corrections, Rehabilitation, Prison Design, Urban Prisons, Micro-Urbanism