Prisons need to be more like educational institutions to ensure the ability to learn and grow. The idea that wrongdoers should undergo long-term punishment is an outdated and inefficient method. It results in the deterioration in the mental health of prisoners and has proven to show little effectiveness in its ability to correct behaviour. Although the intention of prisons was initially to create an environment so horrible and torturous that it would deter people from committing crimes, this approach has been shown not work. More emphasis should be made on why crimes have been committed in the first place rather than emphasising on the punishment that should be undergone due after committing them. I believe people who have committed crime should not be dehumanised in the way that they currently are. Prisons should be an institution for learning and correction to allow them to improve and change to decrease the likelihood of crimes being repeated after release.
For my thesis project, I wanted to learn about prison architecture as well as schools to be able to design an institution that supports prisoners in creating better lives for themselves. In effect, by improving the lives of those that resort to crime, we are able to decrease crime rate and improve their respective communities. This will only result in social and economic growth. For this design, community-building, education and employment are key. These three things should run simultaneously to ensure comfort, growth, as well as income. If prisoners are encouraged to learn, they will be able to carry on that knowledge when released and also able to develop socially and emotionally. By working, they can generate funds that will help with problems at home or be used as savings. Lastly, by encouraging community-building with the facility, aggression and depression can be reduced within the compound. In today’s climate with its issues with waste, this new “university” includes facilities for recycling and re-purposing materials. Also, labs and lecture theatres to research and learn about these subjects.
Too often prisoners are treated like animals and seen as inferior by guards and other staff members of the facility. Even prison governers wrongfully use their power and position by abusing the inmates. These employees of the facility tend to feel in power amongst the prisoners as if abuse is deserving or even just to exert dominance. Therefore, the project should also be designed in a way that encourages more positive interactions, not only between prisoners but also between the prisoners and staff.
I hope that by addressing problems individually and re-humanising those that have committed crime, the stigma against prisons, criminals and prisoners is altered. This can improve conditions for the prisoner within the prison as well as outside of it.