Tag Archive: Architecture

Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

From The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with lawsuits and a growing mountain of damning research, New York City officials decided last month to ban solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger. Just a few weeks earlier, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary-confinement cells and death chambers.

“It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Helene Combs Dreiling, the institute’s former president, told me. She said she put together a special panel that reviewed the plea. “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.”

What are the ethical boundaries for architecture? Architecture is one of the learned professions, like medicine or law. It requires a license, giving architects a monopoly over their practices, in return for a minimal promise that buildings won’t fall down. Raphael Sperry, the Bay Area architect who spearheaded the petition to the institute, thinks the public deserves more in return for that monopoly. (more…)

Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having “Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications”

Mark "Migs" Neiweem.

Mark “Migs” Neiweem.

By Will Potter/ From Vice

An inmate in Illinois has been in solitary confinement since July for possessing “copious amounts of Anarchist publications” and “handwritten Anarchist related essays,” according to prison documents.

Mark “Migs” Neiweem is a prisoner at the maximum security Pontiac Correctional Center who, in addition to the publications and his writings about the prison industrial complex, was also found in possession of anarchist symbols including a “Circle A” and “Circle E” (the latter, which stands for equality, is described in prison reports as representing “class warfare, the 99%”).

“I’ve been doing this work since 1979 and I can’t think of another case where someone has gotten a disciplinary report for something so obviously political as this,” said Alan Mills, who is Neiweem’s lawyer and a professor at Northwestern University.

Neiweem also had documents in his cell from the Anarchist Black Cross, which the Illinois Department of Correction says is “a political organization and openly supports those who have committed illegal activity in furtherance of revolutionary aims.” That’s a menacing way of saying that the group writes letters to prisoners and solicits donations so they can buy food from the prison commissary. (more…)

Under Fire, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Audits Its Use of Solitary Confinement—and Buys a New Supermax Prison

Solitary confinement cells at ADX Florence, the federal supermax in Colorado.

Solitary confinement cells at ADX Florence, the federal supermax in Colorado.

From Solitary Watch

Amidst growing criticism of its abundant use solitary confinement, the federal Bureau of Prisons has quietly set in motion an “internal audit” to review its “restricted housing operations.” The audit, which has been contracted out to a Washington think tank and will be conducted largely by former corrections officials, seems unlikely to bring any dramatic change to the lives of the more than 12,000 people being held in isolation in the federal prison system. Meanwhile, the federal government has completed purchase of a prison meant to house still more isolation cells.

The audit fulfils a pledge made by BOP director Charles Samuels last year, following Congress’s first and so far only hearing into solitary confinement. At that hearing, convened by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Samuels acknowledged under questioning that he didn’t know how many people with mental illness were in isolation in federal prisons, and was short on details about the BOP’s use of solitary confinement.

Since that time, controversy surrounding the BOP’s use of solitary has only grown. Current lawsuits are challenging the treatment of individuals with mental illness at ADX Florence, the notorious federal supermax prison in Colorado. Increased media coverage of ADX has uncovered horror stories of psychotic prisoners who gouge holes in their own flesh or eat their own feces, along with at least one suicide. (more…)