‘Shawshank Redemption’: 5 Adaptive Reuse Strategies for Shuttered Jails

Redeveloping closed correctional facilities in ways that foster just and thriving communities is a growing trend across the United States.

1 minute read

May 15, 2024, 8:00 AM PDT

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon

Deralict stone prison building with turrets and a chain link fence in foreground, under a gray, cloudy sky.

Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, closed in 2002. It is famous for being featured in the Blues Brothers movie. | Adolf / Adobe Stock

Everyone’s been talking about adaptive reuse of office buildings in the wake of record office vacancies following the pandemic. But that isn’t the only type of vacancy on the rise, according to an article from the Vera Institute of Justice. Jail and prison closures — driven by a steady decline in the United States correctional population and a glut of closed facilities — have increased since 2000.

The trend presents “an opportunity to reallocate energy, funds, space, and personnel toward collectively beneficial enterprises that help foster thriving and just communities,” writes Elizabeth Allen.

The article outlines and offers real-life examples of ways former correctional institutions can be reimagined to revitalize communities and economies, including:

  1. Housing
  2. Industry and commerce
  3. Agriculture, parks, and recreation
  4. Social and community services
  5. Renewable energy microgrids

“Done thoughtfully, redevelopment can bring community renewal,” Allen writes. Reuse of former jails and prisons can result in new businesses and jobs to foster local economies. “Former facilities, too, can be restored for reconciliation and reparation—as commemorative, educational sites or ones addressing the root causes of criminal legal system involvement” and to promote racial, social, and cultural justice.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024 in Vera

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