Well-Designed Prison, Well-Behaved Prisoners

A prison design in Austria that emphasizes inmate comfort and dignity raises questions about the role architecture and design plays in preventing or encouraging more crime.
June 16, 2009, 11am PDT | Nate Berg
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The prison in Loeben, Austria, designed by Josef Hohensinn has been criticized by many for looking like a "luxury" prison. But prison is prison, according to the architect. And it turns out that his prison is not only better behaved than the typical American cement box prison, it's also a nice place for the guards to work.

"To be fair, prominent architects aren't lining up to take on the task of making prisons better. Most of Hohensinn's colleagues would be happy to design a courthouse, but few are quite as eager to build a penitentiary, though the two are merely opposite ends of a single system. New prison construction is generally parceled out to a handful of large and more-or-less anonymous firms - a process that discourages innovation. Whoever gets the commission is told how many beds are needed, what kinds of security, how much room for the clinic, the recreation area, the guardhouses. They're big-box prisons, as anonymous and uninflected as so many Wal-Marts."

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Published on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 in The New York Times
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