The design of any built environment profoundly affects what we do and how we feel in that space. Indeed, an increasing wealth of scientific research shows that design impacts upon behaviour and emotions to a remarkable degree, influencing our moods, choices, relationships and physical and mental well-being. Places of detention are no exception. In fact, the impact of design is even more important in places where people are sent, against their will, to spend long periods of time in small, tightly controlled spaces. It is therefore essential to give the necessary attention to the conditions and space in which this time is spent. Unfortunately, prisons are all too often designed without due consideration or understanding of the impact of design on detainees, staff and visitors – or designed with the belief that the prison environment itself should be part of the punishment. The rights and obligations related to detention are well defined at the international level, especially regarding criminal justice, security policies and prison management and procedures. But most of these developments have remained detached from the physical infrastructure in which they are implemented: the prison building itself. Further, while technical and operational manuals for prison design exist in some countries and at the international level, very little attention has been given to how it directly influences, positively or negatively, the ability of authorities to deliver the healthy and safe living conditions required by international laws and standards.
Our aim in this book is to help bridge this gap by connecting the underlying values reflected in these legal instruments to practical matters of planning and design. Our approach rests on the understanding that planning and design matter and that thoughtful, intentional design has the power to dramatically affect outcomes in any institutional setting, especially a prison, where detainees are unable to escape the built environment. We make the case that design embeds and expresses values and beliefs and that it is crucial for everyone involved in planning, designing, building and operating a prison to understand the potential impact of design on detainees, staff, visitors, the local community and broader society.