Restorative Justice Design Lab

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Designing decarceration and investing in restorative justice.

In the United States today, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in over 1,800 correctional facilities, forming a vast punitive network that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The impact of this landscape extends beyond prison walls—statistics depict five-year recidivism rates as high as 77% and 45% for those released from state and federal prisons, respectively, demonstrating that prison neither rehabilitates nor improves public safety.  

Our prisons are dehumanizing environments that, instead of preparing incarcerated people for successful integration into civil society, inflict injury by depriving their safety, agency, and humanity. The explosion of mass incarceration in recent decades has solidified a form of ‘design abandonment’ throughout prisons. Prison design has turned into mass production that has severely limited our society’s ability to imagine alternative and more humane forms of justice that better respond to community needs. 

The Restorative Justice Design Lab creates a platform for cross-sector collaborations in criminal justice infrastructure, accompanied by a network of partner organizations, public municipalities, artists, academic institutions, and individuals who are incarcerated across the country. Together, we will reimagine the existing pipelines to prison, conditions of confinement, re-entry support structures, and community health groundwork to build a community-based restorative justice system that can dignify and humanize every member of society. 

This Design Lab seeks to engage a range of social sectors to plan the obsolescence of our current prison system through the following tactics:

  1. Engage with affected communities to improve existing conditions of confinement
  2. Leverage pre-market engagement and design to close prison pipelines and shut the front door to incarceration
  3. Build new community justice infrastructures based on values of restorative justice and healing
  4. Expand mental health recovery and substance abuse infrastructures
  5. Change the narrative around prison and criminality

Ongoing Projects and Partnerships include a publication on the Architecture of Prisons, The Writing on the Wall exhibition on the High Line, coursework with the University of Michigan Taubman College School of Architecture, and the research and design with the Vera Institute of Justice.