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June 25, 2013

Building A Better Prison

Produced by
Roman Mars

It might not seem like an architect’s area of expertise to reform inhumane prison conditions. But like attorneys, journalists and doctors, architects have a code of professional ethics. They’re required to “uphold human rights in all of their professional endeavors.”

Architect Raphael Sperry says that prisons designed for prolonged solitary confinement violate the human rights of the inmates, and that he and other architects are ethically bound to do something about it.

At California’s Pelican Bay Supermax Prison, cells don't have windows. Inmates are in their cells for 22 or 23 hours a day, only leaving to visit the shower or the exercise yard (a windowless room with twenty-foot high concrete walls).

Sperry says he wants the American Institute of Architects to amend their to their ethics code to say: "Members shall not design spaces intended for execution or for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including prolonged solitary confinement."

This story is a collaboration between 99% Invisible and the Life of the Law podcast.


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