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Creative Prison

Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation) is an activist arts group established in 1999 in order to develop innovative, arts-based approaches to working with prisoners and staff within U.K. prisons. They explore the impact of criminal behaviour on offenders, their families and others. Primarily as they say, this is achieved by working with offenders, looking at the causes and consequences of the actions that have led them to prison.

The programmes that interest me most are the ones that as they have described on their website analyse the offending behaviour researching the personal histories of the inmate.

They use a similar method as Design Psychology methods for analyzing the data, to be able to create health-promoting interiors for the offenders. In order to do that you need to know a lot of information about the occupants of that space, their wishes and needs during their stay in prison. This organization can raise awareness on the conditions the actual inmates are jailed and how artist, architects and designers can work together to make better and more efficient environments for the prisoners.

More information available at http://www.rideout.org.uk/purpose.aspx

Creative Prison

Rideout (2007) Creative Prison Project, 3D drawing

Inmate sketch for visitors centre

On their website, they wrote the following lines related to Creative Prison project: The idea for the Creative Prison project was born partly out of private frustration, and partly out of acknowledgment of a public failure. The failure is the failure of the prison system in the U.K. Working within prisons one is constantly coming up against the problem of space – a lack of it, and poor design. Recognising that the large majority of our prisons were built for an earlier idea of criminal justice in which punishment was everything, we became interested in talking to prison staff and prisoners about what a different kind of prison might look like. This imagined prison would place rehabilitation and education at its centre.

They teamed up with architect Will Aslop and sculptor Jon Ford for this project. They selected the inmates of HMP Gartree prison in Liecestershire to participate at the design process. The prisoners were asked to design their fantasy prison through various exercises and after Will Aslop draw from those ideas a fictional facility.

The results were showed in an exhibition called “Creative Prison” at the Yard Gallery of the Architecture Foundation in London. The exhibition comprised the designs of Will Aslop, sculptural interpretation of the designs made by the inmates under the guidance of sculptor Jon Ford, a short film showing the interior of the imagined prison and another video of Shona Illingworth showing a more actual representation of the prison environment.

This project is a benchmark for the projects to come related to prison design as it takes in consideration the desires of the inhabitants and their wishes. It does not base the planning on a standardized way that some professionals think it is the right way. Of course, this was a fantasy project; still we can learn from it and start working with inmates themselves to achieve more humane solutions to accommodate them. It would be interesting to do a similar one with the children jailed in Youth Detention Centres as the children have different need and if asked to participate from the puzzle that they will draw we can subtract some important information about their needs that most of the time are neglected. This project was interesting but cannot be put in practise so if we get inspired from it maybe we will design better prisons in the future.

The biggest issue is that lot of prisons are managed by private corporations so the profit comes first. There is only one conference where the developers meet every year and each time is held in a different country Prison Planning, Design and Development Conference. The entrance is exclusive for specialists and very expensive. It would be interesting if they would involve architecture and design schools to participate to projects. A few days workshops for the student in design and architecture meeting with Crime Science students might produce some interesting ideas for the developers.

Bibliography

Finoki, B. (2007) Fantasy Psison.[Internet] Available at: <http://subtopia.blogspot.com/2007/02/fantasy-prison.html>%5BAccessed 21 February 2012]

<http://www.rideout.org.uk/creative_prison.aspx>%5BAccessed 21 February 2012]

<http://www.rideout.org.uk/purpose.aspx&gt; [Accessed 21 February 2012]

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