The moral ambiguities at the heart of progressive prison design

Prof. Yvonne Jewkes1,2
1University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom,  2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Discourses of transformation, normalisation, trauma sensitivity and rehabilitation have recently come to the fore in the briefs given to prison architects. Drawing on recent collaborations with several prison services, this paper will explore the moral ambiguities that lie at the heart of these seemingly unquestionable and desirable goals. It will discuss whether prisons can be designed with an explicit mission to rehabilitate offenders and whether they can succeed in this goal even when rehabilitation is not an underpinning philosophy in their planning and design.  It will also consider the seemingly intractable contradiction in trying to achieve rehabilitation in ‘corrections’ and will contemplate where the limits of the rehabilitation mission lie in prison planning and design.


Yvonne Jewkes is Professor of Criminology at the University of Bath and Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. She has conducted several funded studies of prison architecture, design and technology in the UK and Europe. She has also undertaken research and consultancy in prisons in Australia and New Zealand.  Other, related interests include ‘green prisons’, computer technologies in prisons, and the ethics of prison architecture. Yvonne has published numerous books and articles on various aspects of imprisonment and is a series editor of Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology.


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