The architecture of state prisons

June 6, 2013

The wonderful San Francisco-based podcast 99% Invisible takes a deeper look into the design and architecture of all sorts of places and things, from specific buildings to topics such as how new postage stamp designs are selected.

Recently, host Roman Mars and his crew took a look at the design of prisons, with a particular focus on California’s supermax prison, Pelican Bay.

A group called Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility has taken the stance that architects — and all humans, really — should “uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.”  See, the members believe that it’s unethical for architects to build some types of structures, namely prisons with execution chambers and long-term isolation units.

Pelican Bay State Prison has a lot of notoriety for being the state’s “security housing unit,” also known as SHU or sometimes “solitary housing unit.” There, inmates are kept in small rooms for almost all but one or two hours a day, a procedure that’s been criticized by many human rights advocacy groups.

You can listen to the entire podcast here. 



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