Adapting the architecture of confinement
Lea's thesis (presented June 2016) broadly examined the architecture of confinement in an attempt to adapt prisons into authentic rehabilitation centers rather than stagnant typologies of confinement. Her patent pending design of healthy mechanical air purification systems for hospitals launched her pursuit to develop wellness driven technologies and architectural systems within prisons, with a specific focus on reducing recidivism. Her initiative promotes using prisons as manufacturing and innovation incubation sites for the development of technologies that provide healing and learning in order to help prisoners more readily reintegrate into society upon release.
Through the method she employed, the social and economic resources required to reintegrate newly released prisoners into society have been reduced.
In addressing the need for spaces to promote overall health, Lea created an opportunity to rethink prisoner circulation and implement innovative, healthy adaptations to prison design, focusing on creating a better environment for mind and body. These programmatic and systematic adaptations aid a failing effort to rehabilitate our most neglected citizens.
Over the course of 5 years, 50% of released prisoners will return to prison. This rate of recidivism is evidence that our penal system is broken and a new system focused on compassionate rehabilitation rather than punishment must be considered. The prison population in the United States is uniquely burdensome compared to other countries. The 2.5 million people imprisoned in the United States account for 1/4 of the population of incarcerated individuals worldwide. In the United States today, “1 in 31 residents is under the control of the criminal justice system.”[i] Prisoners make up an invisible class of citizens: unrepresented and removed from daily life.
Though this invisible class constitutes a significant percentage of our citizenry, in the world of design, architects are seldom hired to devise productive, social solutions to the buildings that house them. However, Lea’s personal practice is continuing to lead prison design innovation through the development of strategic partnerships focused on incorporating healthy, sustainable technologies within institutional settings, as well as an overdue rethinking of policy initiatives focused on promoting this important shift in our thinking about prison design and operations.
[i] The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights