Architecture as a device of control : themes of prison life with focus on solitary confinement
This research is focused on the factors that affect the behavior of those within correctional environments, from general population areas to solitary confinement environments. The architectural perspective of this work views the building as the device of control and is based on extensive prior research into the historical theories that underlie it, while answering the question of what qualities of correctional environments shape the behavior and experience of its inhabitants. The research was conducted at two medium security correctional institutions in a large northeastern state, with one being the second oldest and the other being the newest prison within the system. This research was conducted with twenty-four participants using a qualitative research methodology, as the researcher sought to listen to the experiences of those involved. Critical stakeholders that constituted the sample included inmates, officers, architects, health and mental health professionals, and administrators. Grounded theory was used to code the data that was obtained to identify emerging themes. Research tools included memos, interviews, observations, journals, and photographic and graphic analysis. Specific themes emerged from the coded analysis that reflected broader environmental factors within the solitary confinement experience and in general population living areas of the facility. Themes of trust, sound, views to nature, routine, and time were identified. This work highlights the impact of mental health needs within the prison system and how those needs inform future prison design. The integration of nature and access to views can reduce inmate stress. Sound control as well as visual control can contribute to officer safety and inmate well-being. Future building design can help with experiences of time and routine that will foster both a sense of relevance and rehabilitation for inmates and security for officers.