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What kind of prison might the inmates design?

Aug 28, 2014

from the article by Lee Romney in the LA Times:

....The 18 men who enrolled in the four-day workshop this summer were contemplating restorative justice through a novel lens: design.

As consensus builds that traditional criminal justice models are failing to prevent recidivism, [Deanna] VanBuren and fellow instructor Barb Toews, an academic, have joined a small chorus of designers, researchers and even judges and wardens calling for new spaces to match the tenets of restorative justice.

...."What would a room look like," she then asked, "where you could face anything you've done and be accountable for it?"

Together, they created a vision and called it "Do No Harm" room. A picture window with a mountain view. A door that locks from the inside. Plants and rugs. The workshop dynamic shifted.

Later, Toews wondered, "If we treated it as a potential for something literal, if the environment were different, how might that change how we do justice?"

She was exploring the question as a doctoral student a few years ago when VanBuren tracked her down. "I could not believe that someone had similar interests to me," Toews said. "It was the craziest, luckiest thing."

....In a closing circle after the presentation, [Anthony] Pratt, who recently participated in a restorative justice-style circle with his girlfriend, said his whole outlook had changed: "Instead of being barbarians and just beating each other upside the head, we can be like family."

VanBuren said she is encouraging big architecture firms that design jails and prisons to hold similar workshops with inmates and guards.

"The goal is to empower those inside the institutions and prod architects to actually talk to the people they are designing for," she said. "That's how an architect would practice in any other setting."

Read the whole article.

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