Architectural Reform in Prisons: A Focus on Rehabilitation in Scandinavian Prisons and the US

This essay was an individual research study I did for my 400 level Seminar Class: Contemporary Architecture

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Summary of Research and Major points of this Essay:

While prisons worldwide share core objectives of protecting the public, punishing offenders, and rehabilitating them, the United States has shifted focus from rehabilitation since the 1960s, resulting in a ‘revolving door’ for repeat offenders. The essay delves into the impact of prison architecture on rehabilitation, comparing the punitive U.S. system with Scandinavia’s emphasis on reform. Environmental psychology plays a crucial role, and case studies of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark and Halden Prison in Norway highlight how thoughtful design positively influences inmates’ psychological well-being, fostering a sense of normality and community. The essay acknowledges limitations and conflicting arguments, such as the cost disparity between Scandinavian and American prisons, conservative sentiments favoring retribution, and the challenge of restructuring the existing system. Ultimately, it argues for the necessity of prioritizing rehabilitation in prison design, not only ethically but also economically, as a humane environment can contribute to reduced recidivism.

Image of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark. Cloudy day, green grass, built structure in center.
Image of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark. By Architect Group C. F. Moller
Exterior of Halden Prison, in Norway
Halden Prison, in Halden, Norway. By Architect Group Erik Møller Arkitekter

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