Posts tagged with "Prison":

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Justice Department to end use of private prisons. Will the AIA ask architects to stop designing them?

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced today that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will end its use of private prisons, citing concerns over the facilities' safety and efficacy. The decision applies to federal prisons only and comes after the department released an 86-page report that analyzed the operations of 14 contract prisons in seven categories for security and safety. The report found that, except for fewer (reported) incidents of sexual misconduct and positive drug tests, privately operated prisons have more security and safety lapses than those run but the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The report found that private prisons, moreover, had higher rates of inmate-to-inmate and inmate-to-guard assaults than at BOP facilities. “[Privately-run prisons] simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote in a DOJ memo released by the Washington Post. In an interview with the paper she added that “[the] fact of the matter is that private prisons don’t compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that." The move comes as the federal prison population has declined from an all-time high of almost 220,000 in 2013 to 195,000 today, mostly due to changes in drug sentencing guidelines, sentencing for low-level drug convictions, and clemency initiatives. The prisons will not shut down all at once. Rather, the DOJ will review the contracts of 13 facilities operated by three private organizations as they come up for renewal over the next five years. The DOJ's decision will impact a small number of prisoners, but its implications are huge. As of December 2015, private prisons housed around 22,660 federal inmates, 12 percent of the BOP's inmate population. By May 1, 2017, the private prison population should be less than 14,200. The Daily News' Shaun King, who advocates for ending mass incarceration, offered measured praise for the decision on his Facebook page:   Although problems at private prisons are well-documented, they are often drivers of economic development, and jobs-starved communities are loathe to see the prisons shut down. Already the BOP announced that it will reduce a new 10,800-bed contract by 7,200 beds. The BOP spent $639 million on private prisons in the 2014 fiscal year. The DOJ's decision could impact the architecture profession. In 2011, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility repeatedly petitioned the AIA to take a stance on the design of execution rooms and "spaces intended for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" in the U.S. and abroad. Although the organization's code of conduct states that "members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors," this year, the AIA rejected a petition to discipline members who design solitary confinement units and death chambers. BOP prisons can contain solitary confinement facilities, so the DOJ's decision may spur the AIA to take a more decisive stance on the ethics of prison design.
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Former California prison to become trailblazing medical marijuana farm

Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, California is set to be repurposed as a medical marijuana production facility, after Coalinga city officials jointly agreed to sell the building to a local firm, Ocean Grown Extracts, to the tune of $4.1 million—conveniently covering the city's $3.8 million debt.

Prior to closure, the prison had a capacity of more than 500 inmates though operations were put to an end when California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations decided to shut the facility down in 2011. Now, after lying empty for half a decade, the building will now become a high-security factory for cannabis oil extraction.

“It’s like the Grateful Dead said: ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been,’” Coalinga Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Keough told the Fresno Bee after he and council members voted 4-1 in favor of the plan. “We listened to the citizens and created a package that was reflective of our population.”

“You can never do anything that satisfies everyone,” Keough added, “but we were pretty darn close to doing that.” It has also been reported that the 77,000-square-foot building is due to create approximately 100 new jobs as well ending a "long journey to medical cannabis legalization for Coalinga" despite medical marijuana use being legal in California for quite some time.

Co-owner of Ocean Grown Extracts Casey Dalton explained the firm has their eyes set on operations being up and running before the end of the year. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer 100 jobs and make safe medicine available for patients,” she said. “We appreciate Coalinga taking a chance not only on us, but on the industry.”

In order for the firm to carry out extraction, the facility must be secured under locked gates with no public access with 24-hour surveillance. As for the building's interior, much of it will remain as it was left. Meanwhile, all employees are subject to stringent background checks which must be passed, plants must have tracking devices on them and the plant must also have techniques for odor control.

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Experience what solitary confinement feels like with a new virtual reality app

Few of us will hopefully ever have to experience what life in solitary confinement is like. But for those who'd like to immersively experience it—if only for a few minutes—then The Guardian has a solution. Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 14.49.39 The Guardian has put together an app called 6x9 that aims to plunge users into the confines of a six by nine foot cell. "Right now, more than 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the US," said the newspaper. "They spend 22-­24 hours a day in their cells, with little to no human contact for days or even decades. We invite you into this world." Best enjoyed with the Google Cardboard Viewer to nullify any distractions, the experience can also be 'enjoyed' even by those without a smartphone courtesy of a 360° interactive video, seen below. The experience features soundbites from interviews of those who have been subject to solitary confinement. The interviews are available to read in full on The Guardian too. "I remember stepping into the cell and it was like stepping over a bridge into another world. The first feeling I had is that something could happen to me in here and no one would ever know," said Five Omar Mualimm-ak, who spent a total of five years and eight months in solitary confinement. "You will probably spend a lot of time laying flat on the floor just trying to get that little bit of air that will come under the door," adds Dolores Canales, the only female voice to feature. Canales was in solitary confinement for nine months after being jailed aged 18. Last year, the issue of solitary confinement was a contentious topic in the American architecture scene. In January 2015, New York City officials banned "solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger." The decision came only a few weeks after the American Institute of Architects (AIA) refused to adhere to a plea that would forbid AIA members from designing buildings intended for human-rights violations (as defined by international laws) such as executions or prolonged solitary confinement. According to the Architectural Record, the amendment would've demanded that AIA members "not design spaces intended for execution or for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including prolonged solitary confinement." Speaking to the New York Times, former AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling said “If we begin to stipulate the types of projects our members can and cannot do, it opens a can of worms.” “It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Dreiling added. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.” The debate on ethical architecture raged on. “Is there nothing so odious that the A.I.A. wouldn’t step in?” retorted Raphael Sperry, who, with his organization, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, submitted the ethical amendment to the AIA. “What about concentration camps? The A.I.A. is basically saying business is more important than human rights," he added. Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times pointed out that American Medical Association specifically prohibits doctors from participating in execution or torture. He and Sperry also noted that A.I.A's own code of professional ethics states that "members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors."
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A new film explores the effect of mass incarceration on the American landscape

Although jails and prisons are physical sites, the effects of imprisonment are not confined to the buildings themselves: From Orange is the New Black to Broken On All Sides, television and films have explored the effect of prisons on the minds, lives, and communities of the incarcerated and formally incarcerated. Now, a new film from Canadian director Brett Story explores how incarceration has transformed the American landscape. The facts are out there: 2.2 million people are imprisoned in the U.S. today, and it's estimated that we spend $80 billion on incarceration each year. Instead dropping fact bombs, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes traces the ways mass incarceration affects the country's physical and social spaces through 12 vignettes, from a playground in L.A. designed to repel registered sex offenders, to Ferguson, Missouri, to Whitesburg, a Kentucky mining town whose economy is supported by a federal prison. The 87-minute documentary premiered at Columbia, Missouri's True/False Film Fest. The above mentioned L.A. pocket parks are not surrounded by barbed wire fences, or plastered with signs prohibiting pedophiles. The typology of the park itself is the deterrent: In the neighborhoods of Harbor Gateway and Wilmington, city officials encouraged the building of parks specifically to prevent sex offenders from being able live in the neighborhood. (By law, certain categories of sex offenders can't live or work within 2,000 feet of places where children congregate.) In the Bronx, a formerly incarcerated man sells care packages that comply with the restrictive rules on what's allowed though the mail in prison, while a woman in Marin County, California, details her job fighting forest fires. The film delves deep into the effects of incarceration in majority black communities like Ferguson, where filmmakers profile a woman who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for failing to pay a fine for a missing garbage can lid. If you love probing documentaries and hate prisons, check out the film's upcoming screenings here.
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Ai Weiwei to exhibit at Alcatraz Island this September

Known for his political activism and for art that spans east and west, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will hold an exhibit on Alcatraz Island this September. The show will include seven works at the notorious former federal prison—with partners including the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the For-Site Foundation. The installations will be spread throughout Alcatraz, including the 1941 New Industries Building, where prisoners worked in manufacturing or did laundry for local military bases. The A Block section of the 1912 Alcatraz Cellhouse will also open. It included solitary confinement cells as well as ones that contained typewriters and legal reference books. There will also be installations in the hospital and the Dining Hall, according to Architect. Ai Weiwei is a prisoner of sorts himself. He will work on the exhibit from China, since the Chinese government has barred him from leaving the country since 2011. To help visitors understand more about Weiwei's installations, guides will be stationed throughout Alcatraz, to be funded by a currently-in-progress Kickstarter campaign. The exhibit will run through April 2015.
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Iowa landscape architecture students bring a touch of green behind bars

Thanks to a new student-led effort, green is no longer just the color of the year, it's also the new orange. When the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville embarked on a $68 million expansion three years ago, the plan set aside no money for landscape design. But a collaboration between five landscape architecture students from Iowa State University and eight offenders is bringing a touch of green behind bars. Landscape Architecture Magazine reported that the design process, orchestrated by Iowa State professor Julie Stevens, produced plans for an aspen grove and an outdoor classroom in the sloped land between the prison’s new buildings. Students and inmates worked with masonry and earth (under strict supervision) to build it. Patti Wachtendorf, the prison’s warden, said in the November issue that the project should serve as a model:
“The students got to have a more realistic view of offenders,” she says. “They got to see them as human beings. So someday, if they have an application from someone [who served time in prison], they won’t just throw it away.”
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Zaha Hadid: Right Angles Bad, Dictatorships Okay

The Guardian got up close and personal with Zaha Hadid in a recent, no-holds-barred interview where the Pritzker prize-winning architect gave her two cents on London’s “conservative” architecture climate and railed against rectangular buildings, revealing a nugget of wisdom that perhaps has eluded most designers: “The world is not a rectangle.” Beyond her dislike for conventional corner-oriented design, she also told the reporter that, at her firm, “we don’t make nice little buildings.” While quadrilaterals and “nice” architecture are out of the question, apparently designing in Syria isn’t. That is, unless it is an un-luxurious prison. “Well, I wouldn’t mind building in Syria,” Hadid told the paper. “I’m an Arab and if it helps people, if it’s an opera house or a parliament building, something for the masses, I would do it. But if someone asks me to build a prison, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t build a prison, irrespective of where it is, even if it was very luxurious.” What population living in a war-ravaged country doesn’t need a first-rate opera house?
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Head Crane Inspector Headed to Prison

James Delayo, once the head of the Department of Building's crane inspectors until he was arrested two years ago for accepting bribes on the job, was sentenced to two to six years in prison today for his $10,000 take. According to the Times, Delayo apologized to the city, as well as his fellow crane inspectors, who "don’t deserve the bad publicity I brought them." The judge called the crime "an extraordinary betrayal of public trust," especially in light of the spate of crane accidents, some lethal, that preceded the city investigation that led to Delayo's arrest. Though as Curbed points out, Delayo was not actually the biggest crook at the department.