As the recidivism rates of Nordic nations continue to outshine Australia’s, the Prisons 2018 Conference explores the link between various architectural design concepts and improvements in inmate rehabilitation.
Conference speaker, Kavan Applegate, is a Director at Guymer Bailey Architects and first turned his hand to prison architecture twenty years ago. Since then he has delivered a number of high-profile projects, including the recently completed Ravenhall medium-security Correctional Centre in Melbourne’s West and the $180 million Hopkins Correctional Centre expansion.
Ahead of his presentation, Kavan spoke to us about some of the principles that guide his work.
Kavan, one of your firm’s key focusses has been on increasing interactivity among inmates and between inmates and staff. Why is this; and how have you gone about achieving it?
We believe connectivity is vital in improving rehabilitative outcomes and for reintegrating prisoners back into society after incarceration.
For example, in the Ravenhall Project, we deliberately placed the offices of Clinicians, such as Psychologists and Social Workers within each prisoner community space, rather than co-locating them elsewhere in the facility.
We found that when the prisoners were able to physically see the Clinicians regularly throughout the day, it instilled a sense of familiarity and they were more likely to approach them for support. They also found it easier to build a rapport with them and were more cooperative.
How have you used acoustics to improve rehabilitation?
We have experimented a lot with acoustic separation and deadening. Research shows that the humming noise caused by mechanical ventilation can increase stress levels and heart rates; and disturb sleeping patterns.
This in turn has a host of negative psychological and health consequences which may prevent rehabilitation. In our designs we really look at creative ways of minimizing noise between and within cells, to instill a calming effect among prisoners. We strive to make prison environments feel less institutional and more restorative, to improve rehabilitative outcomes.
How have you deployed SMART technologies within your prison designs?
In the Ravenhall Project, we implemented controlled gates from the residential communities so that prisoners could make their own way to educational, recreational, and work-related places at appropriate times.
As this is a large facility, we wanted to implement a degree of control on the overlay whilst maintaining a certain freedom of movement among prisoners. This set-up allowed us to create a sense of autonomy whilst also creating structure in the prisoners’ day. Both of these elements are really important for giving prisoners the skills they need to succeed in the outside world when they are released.
How do you formulate your designs?
Our work is predominantly evidenced-based. There has been a lot of scientific research indicating the link between various architectural concepts and psychological outcomes; similarly, there is a wealth of research exploring the link between inmate psychology and rehabilitation. Our role is to piece this research together and develop a strong, empirically-backed design that really delivers the best results for government and wider society.
Hear more from Kavan Applegate at the Prisons 2018 Conference – due to take place 2-3 August 2018 at the Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne.