Pacific Standard posts, "Building Better Prisons: Can an Architect Change the Way People Think About Incarceration?" by Jessica Pishko. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
The Quakers were among the first Americans to devise the idea of solitary confinement based on the notion that a life of quiet contemplation was the best way to help people improve their moral character. Inmates went through meals and work in complete silence, with only the Bible to feed their thoughts. The word “penitentiary” comes from the root of the word “penance,” reflecting the original attitude that isolation was a way to rehabilitate.
Today, thanks to modern technology, entire super-maximum security prisons are built where human contact is strictly limited and the idea of rehabilitation is almost entirely absent. The use of solitary confinement has become a topic of humanitarian concern, with both the United Nations and Amnesty International condemning America’s reliance on the practice, which violates international human rights norms and, they argue, constitutes torture. Psychologists agree that even just a few days in solitary can lead to an array of health and psychological problems, but America’s prisons, under the guise of security and safety concerns, continue to isolate and punish people in ways that much of the rest of the world considers barbaric.
This is exactly what Raphael Sperry, president of Architects/ Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility wants to emphasize in his new movement to urge the American Institute of Architects to prohibit architects from designing spaces designed for solitary confinement as well as execution chambers.