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Home > Uncategorized > Evidence-Based Design Reduces Costs and Increases Effective Outcomes

Evidence-Based Design Reduces Costs and Increases Effective Outcomes

October 12th, 2009
The first noted prison in the newly formed American colonies in 1775 resembled a large house with few restrictions housing both females and males. The lenient character of this first prison reflected the colonists’ Calvinist belief that just as sin could not be cured, criminals could not be rehabilitated. Therefore, no effort was paid to the behavioral correction or education within the prison walls. Following several reformations within the penal system, prisons are expected to play a significant role in transforming criminal behavior.
Studies support that the design of a prison impacts the prisoner environment and drives down operational costs. There are core effective design initiatives shown to play a role:
  • Space that encourages socialization and reduced inmate idle time
  • Information-technology solutions for inmates
  • Rehabilitative areas
  • Space customized to detainee limitations such as age or incapacitation issues
  • Segregation by offender type

Research shows that idle prisoners results in increased depression and violent actions. The color, texture, light and attention to cell size all contribute to detainee behavior. By designing secure, engaging social spaces where prisoners can interact, learn and partake in positive stimulation, prisoner’s experience decreased physical and mental health issues, which in turn directly decreases prison’s healthcare costs and mental health treatments.

In addition to purposely enhancing social and private spaces, increasing inmate access to information technologies during in-cell time advances productivity. Cell solutions, such as an in-house computer system, provides an educational and communication tool for staff to communicate with prisoners. This provides prisoners with more interaction and staff with better communication control. Providing information technology along with designing space for rehabilitation activities is shown to increase the success of transition back into mainstream society, decrease reoffending crimes and provides prisoners with a hopeful outlook.

Creating spaces unique to prison sub-groups, such as age and level of criminal severity, drives down operational costs. Currently, older inmates over 50 years of age are often housed in prisons for younger inmates and have to walk to services throughout the complex. Being at a higher risk for health problems, it is not uncommon to see corrections staff spending time assisting this group. Proper prison design reduces these issues by providing appropriate access for this prison population and reduces cost through the better use of personnel and a reduction in aid supplies.

The level of crime severity directly correlates with the level of security management. Prisons can reduce security costs by pairing and managing the needs more appropriately. Designing the facility to segregate by offender type assists in security management.

Understanding the role of architectural design in the corrections industry is becoming a key topic in prison reform. See our next blog that discusses the link between corrections behavior and evidence-based research and architectural design.

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