Re-imagining Jail

“It is not the prisoners that need reformation, it is the prisons” – Oscar Wilde

Our entry for the National Level Architectural Design Idea Competition for Jails organised by the Bureau of Police Research & Development addressed the current condition of jails in india, investiagted the role of jails is in contemporary society and proposed a humane jail as part of the city by reusing/remodelling poorly built govt housing in the city. A retrofitted jail pushes for a socially equitable future

‘Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings… Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.’ – Angela Davis

Evolution of jails reflect the evolution of democratic and liberal values of society. A jail is a live mirror to the society it is located in.

Increasing headlines of custodial deaths, the lack of transparency in committees investigating these deaths, and lack of access to information on the condition of inmates by monitoring organisations in various prisons across the country puts the accountability of prisons in great jeopardy.

‘Facing the barriers of stigma, rejection, suspicion, mistrust and discrimination requires tenacity and support.’ Rehabilitation is the process of returning to a healthy or good way of life, and the process of helping someone do this. As societies evolve jails also should move from places of incarceration to rehabilitation

Today, There is need for ‘Respect for prisoners’ inherent dignity, Medical and health services, Disciplinary measures and sanctions, Investigations of deaths and torture in custody, Protection of vulnerable groups, Access to legal representation, Complaints and independent inspection, and Training of staff. - Nelson Mandela Rules

There is a need for jails to become the ‘good neighbour’ in order to avoid alienation and stigmatization. Although still separated from society, the intention must be towards deinstitutionalizing jails by creating a social, city-like experience.

While jails function like an island city, there must be guided public interaction with the jail in the form of - Access to legal representation, Easy access to visitation from family, Transparency to monitoring organisations.

What if jails are part of the city? More so what if we use an existing govt housing(which are like a punishment anyways!) to retrofit a jail function to it.

Our proposal elaborates on this premise for a jail-less future.

Location Chennai
Typology Public
Year 2022
Status Competition
Design Team Mahesh Radhakrishnan, Hari Vardhan, Parth Solanki, Drasti Kanabar, Aashumi Shah, Jerold Ashwin, Ayoob Yacoob