ADPSR President claims AIA censored prisons presentation

June 09, 2006 |

ADPSR President claims AIA censored prisons presentation

By Jeffrey Yoders, Associate Editor


Raphael Sperry, AIA, president of Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility, said the American Institute of Architects censored his presentation at the June 8 panel discussion “Exploring Prisons as a Design, Ethical, and Social Policy Issue,” at the AIA Convention and Design Exposition in Los Angeles.

“Apparently not everyone at AIA wants to have this discussion,” said Sperry, an AIA member who works for 450 Architects in San Francisco. “I was told I couldn’t show my two slides because AIA does not allow presentations on advocacy issues. These slides had pictures of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was trying to show two exterior pictures of prisons, in a presentation about prisons.”

Sperry repeated ADPSR’s stance that architects, designers, and planners should sign a pledge to not design prisons at the panel. Sperry said architects could not follow the AIA code of ethics, which states “members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors” and simultaneously work for an institution (the prison system) that has “repeatedly shown callous disregard for the human rights of its wards.”

The panel discussion featured Frank J. Greene, AIA, principal of RicciGreene Associates of New York, a firm that focuses on the design and construction of justice facilities (including prisons), and Jeanne Woodford, director of the California department of corrections and rehabilitation and the former warden of San Quentin prison. Greene argued that America needs better, not fewer, prisons, and that architects can make a difference by designing them the right way.

He said the new principles of prison design (including prisons his firm has built) have direct supervision of inmates, are program-enriched to make rehabilitation easier, have a clear system of reward and punishment, and classify inmates by behavior.

“There’s no fear, there’s no intimidation, there’s no Abu Ghraib tactics going on here,” Greene said.

He pointed to a recently completed Juvenile Reform Facility built in Washington, D.C., by HOK of Kansas City, Mo., as an example of how to design justice facilities right even for the youngest offenders.

“Making a nice prison, that just makes the problem worse,” said Sperry.

Woodford said prisons do need to be designed better to eliminate the “one size fits all” approach to incarceration that, in her opinion, has failed the state of California.

“We have 171,000 people in 33 prisons in California,” she said. “And many of them are the one-size-fits-all prisons. Many of our inmates need places that are more like treatment centers than prisons. Our women’s prisons look like men’s prisons, and they shouldn’t. They’re less violent offenders (than men), they need more counseling, interaction, and treatment.”

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