Research into carceral spaces has improved the wellbeing of prisoners.
Research by geographers into carceral spaces and the wellbeing of the prisoners who occupy them, with the aim of providing better rehabilitative outcomes for prisoners, has delivered improvements to wellbeing for over 80,000 prisoners to date.
Previously, the design of new prisons in England and Wales delivered against technical specifications (operational capacity, security requirements, construction processes and materials; i.e., what these prisons ‘are’ as buildings), rather than considering their intended (rehabilitative) outcomes.
Research found that spatial design affects experiences of custody and prisoner/visitor interactions.
It found access to, and views of, green spaces improve prisoners’ self-reported wellbeing and reduce levels of self-harm and violence.
The spatial layout of prison visiting rooms also influences the nature of visit interactions, with certain configurations improving the ability of prisoners and visitors to discuss personal and sensitive issues, and thereby supporting visits’ already-proven propensity to reduce reoffending.
Work on the design considerations of carceral spaces has led to changes to policies and processes such that all new prisons in England and Wales that are under construction (such as HMP Wellingborough) are designed to deliver rehabilitation. with rehabilitative design elements (such as a green spaces) integral to their designs.
The work also led to retrofitting of rehabilitative design elements in existing prisons in England, Wales and the Netherlands which has already delivered improvements to over 80,000 prisoners' wellbeing.
Confidential advice tailored to individual prisons via site-visits also led directly to changes affecting more than 5,000 prisoners in the UK.
Read the full impact case study in the REF 21 database
Geopolitics and the carceral - University of Birmingham
Institution: University of Birmingham
Researcher: Professor Dominique Moran
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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Influencing the design of new prisons and the retrofit of existing spaces to improve prisoner wellbeing. Available at www.rgs.org/impact/Influencing-the-design-of-prisons Last accessed on: <date>
Featured image: Geopolitics and the carceral, University of Birmingham
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