Justice in Design

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NADAAA’s collaborative report to develop guidelines and opportunities for forward-thinking jail design has been released to the public. This report was created with the Van Alen Institute and The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform to explore how design could make “A More Just New York City”. The findings in the report develop innovative design and programming guidelines for future decentralized jails—termed Justice Hubs. Justice Hubs are facilities that create healthy, normative environments and support rehabilitation for incarcerated or detained individuals, while simultaneously providing neighborhoods with new public amenities.

Rikers Island affects people from every borough, creating intertwined challenges for detainees, their families, correctional staff, and city residents. The isolated location, harsh environments, and challenging protocols make for spaces that are dehumanizing, unhealthy and unsafe for many that come into contact with it. Closing Rikers would relieve the knot of tension and harm that these jails create.

Justice Hubs are a new model for detention in New York City. Located in each of the boroughs near existing courts and municipal buildings, these new facilities offer an innovative opportunity for a justice system that is fair and responsive to communities throughout New York City.

A series of workshops and detention center tours were held in three New York City boroughs with family members of detainees, former detainees, former correction officers, and community members so they could have a voice in discussions of closing Rikers Island.

The diversity of opportunities in the city creates healthy and vibrant experiences. How people from a variety of walks of life take advantage of programs and overlap with others can foster positive civic identity and understanding.

To make jails more rehabilitative, healthy, and respectful, attention to the design of interior spaces must focus on producing positive behavioral effects, easing tensions for inmates and staff, providing dedicated spaces for a diversity of experiences and constructive programming, and creating domestic environments more common in everyday life with access to light, air, and views.

Goals for Justice Hub visitation include: open access to information; scheduling visits on line; respectful and supportive interaction with Correction Officer and Staff; well considered and appropriately appointed waiting areas; visitor meeting rooms with a variety of furniture and children areas with toys and soft surfaces; access to natural light, air and connection to outdoor spaces and views.

The discussions proposed facilities centered on establishing community-based institutions as an integral part of the city and the populations they serve to develop a positive connection with the local context while affording opportunities for work and community-based programs. The findings indicate that to best serve New York City, the boroughs, and local communities, the next generation of facilities must draw on experiences of people living and working in jails.

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