“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.
The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.
As an assignment for a thesis project, Glen Santayana, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, designed a prison/school hybrid that can be a possible solution needed for lowering recidivism rates. Santayana’s thesis stems off of the “war on drugs” that took place during the 1970’s but still plays a significant role in the increase of inmates throughout the United States prison system. It was designed precisely for the non-violent offender that struggles with repeat offending. The design of PriSchool takes a look at the current US prison system from a completely different perspective, which may come off as a radical idea. PriSchool is a prison that is integrated with a school of criminology and is set in a community environment. The complex is split into four buildings, a “pre-release” building, a community center, the school of criminology, and the prison itself. The buildings are linked together by bridges that show how each intertwine based off of the specific functions. The classroom technique allows prisoners and students to take classes together, which can be empowering and hands on. The “pre-release” building allows prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to gain access to new and employable skills. Also, the community center will serve as a liaison for curious and skeptical members of the community, and a “safe haven” for individuals to deter from potential crimes. Read More Here.