The independent living units at Mobilong Prison on the outskirts of Murray Bridge in South Australia represent an innovative approach to Australian prison architecture. 240 medium security inmates are housed in self-contained duplex accommodations, a stark contrast to traditional cellblocks used under typical medium-security systems.
The design is domestic in nature.
- The development has a human scale, with each duplex having subtle aesthetic variations through the use of color to enable easy identification by the new occupants.
- The security elements are contained in the fabric of the building rather than displayed externally, and bars and security grills were eliminated from the design. Siting of the buildings uses principles from residential planning.
- They are arranged in groups of two, facing inward to a central court area, which has a garden and public telephones.
- Bedrooms (rather than cells) were placed at either side of the living area to minimise transitional spaces. Bedrooms are lockable to allow inmates personal space and privacy.
- The occupancy for each unit was set at five to allow group-voting processes to occur with minimal conflict.
Allowing occupants connection to the external environment was important to the design.
- Visual connection to external events in prison environments is essential to feelings of safety, control and well-being, and decreases disorientation through the increased ability to visualize the entire environment.
- Vertical windows allow a line of sight from ground to horizon to enable the occupant to observe and connect with the external environment.
- Occupants also can continually access a small, enclosed external veranda area, allowing continued contact with the external environment during lockdown periods.
- Efficient sustainable environmental development solutions and passive environmental principles were integral to the design.