Call for book chapter abstracts: What works in custodial design?

Custodial design (i.e. of correctional facilities, prisons, jails) has become big news. The scale and cost of incarceration has seen attention drawn to its effectiveness in delivering intended outcomes, with architecture and design recently coming under considerable media scrutiny. Whilst drawing attention to the structural violence of the carceral state, and arguing for decarceration, academic researchers are, in parallel, turning their attention to the effects of architectural and design elements on those who live, work in, or visit these facilities.

In the past, custodial design has prioritised the designing-out of risk (of escape, and of violence against the self and others). Whilst these considerations remain critical, more recently the balance has swung towards more aspirational – and controversial – ideas that facilities could instead be rehabilitative, even therapeutic environments that foster wellbeing.

We may know more than ever before about how built environments influence wellbeing in general, but the question of what custodial facilities should be like remains a challenging one. Policymakers may be open to new design ideas, but in managing tight budgets, they often require a challenging level of evidential proof of effect before changes are made.

This call is therefore for proposals for chapters for a collection edited by Dominique Moran, Yvonne Jewkes, Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill and Victor St.John, asking ‘what works?’ in custodial design to deliver a rehabilitative, therapeutic environment, or other ‘positive’ outcomes?

The call is addressed to researchers in all disciplines, working in all geographical contexts, whose work addresses one or more of the following questions, whether in relation to the custodial environment as a whole, or to elements of it:

  1. How can we characterise or categorise custodial buildings/environments? How can we describe them in ways that enable us to determine the effects of their characteristics?
  2. How can we characterise the intended outcomes of custodial design? Should design prioritise, for example, ‘humanisation’, ‘normalisation’, or ‘wellbeing’, and how do we recognise and evaluate these in practice? What other ‘positive’ or desirable outcomes might custodial design encourage (for example, recovery, rehabilitation, aspiration, future orientation, aesthetic appreciation)?
  3. How – i.e. through what causal mechanisms – do we think that these characteristics of the built environment ‘work’ in the sense of being experienced by people who are incarcerated, and by the staff who work in custodial facilities, either in the ways in which the planners and designers intended, or in unanticipated ways?
  4. How can we establish whether or that these characteristics have an effect? What data and what methodologies are required to determine causality between built environments and measurable outcomes?
  5. What has been proven to ‘work’ in custodial design, in terms of characteristics of the built environment, and the ways in which it fosters wellbeing or other therapeutic outcomes?

In parallel with this edited collection, an interdisciplinary workshop will be held at the University of Birmingham, UK in 2020, to enable contributors to present and discuss their work around these questions. The workshop will also be an opportunity to explore opportunities for future interdisciplinary collaboration.

Researchers are invited to send 500-word chapter abstracts to d.moran@bham.ac.uk by Monday 18th November. Pre-submission enquiries are also very welcome.

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