Solitary Confinement Cell: Inside the Box
Breaking News Solitary Confinement

Architects Debate Over Building Solitary Confinement Units in US Prisons

The prison industry is worth billions of dollars in America. Architects who build and design prisons feel that one aspect of their job is not right: solitary confinement cells

As lucrative as these facilities are, a vast number of American architects have expressed a strong will to abandon solitary confinement cells altogether.

Solitary Confinement Cell: Inside the Box
Solitary Confinement Cell: Inside the Box. Image Source: WNPR

American Architects Call for Ending Solitary Confinement Cells & Execution Chambers

Raphael Sperry, an architect based in California is asking fellow architects to stop designing correctional facilities with solitary confinement units as well as the execution chambers.

The chances of an architect designing a new execution chamber are rare. But due to the rise of prison construction in America, many solitary confinement units are still being built in the US.

Sperry is pushing for rewriting of the profession’s Code of Ethics to aid in getting rid of the solitary units. He says architects shouldn’t design prison facilities with solitary confinement cells because it’s a form of torture. Even the international human rights community knows this.

Also, Sperry argues that by designing these units, architects are enabling and openly taking part in the abuse of human rights. His stand to stop other architects from designing solitary units in prisons have garnered traction among the professionals in the field.

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The History of Solitary Confinement in the US

Special Correspondent David Tereshchuk says the use of solitary confinement in America begun in 1829 at the Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania. A British architect won a $100 for the design. 

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The reason for these units was to enable inmates to get regretful and penitent torture for their crimes. This is from where the name “penitentiary” was derived.

Sean Kelley, the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site’s Senior Vice President says it was believed that confining inmates for long periods of time inside solitary cells make them become better people in the long run.

He further explains that while in the solitary cells, prisoners were assigned some non-paying prison jobs:

  • Making shoes
  • Making weave
  • Making furniture

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The prisoners were also permitted to go out to the exercise yard which is same size as the confinement unit but open to the sky and that would be all. for 23 hours, their days were spent in their cells. They were given one hour in the exercise yard. 

They had nothing to read except the Bible. And they weren’t allowed to have any prison visits while incarcerated.

Kelley states that the Eastern State Penitentiary became a solitary confinement unit. But did not aid in rehabilitating inmates inmates.

Sperry says there are about 80,000 people confined in the solitary cells in the United States. But the fact is only known to a few Americans because this practice is primarily done to neglected and discarded inmates.

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Solitary Confinement Leads to Mental Health Issues and Does NOT help with rehabilitation.
Solitary Confinement Leads to Mental Health Issues and Does NOT help with rehabilitation. Image Source: Knowable Magazine

Some Architects Believe in Building Solitary Confinement Units

On the other hand, there is a group that is solidly behind designing of solitary confinement units.

Jim Mueller, an architect who has designed for over a decade, says the maximum security confinements and solitary confinement cells are essential in some situations.

American Institute of Architects (AIA) has resisted any substantial overhauling of its Code of Ethics.

AIA told the NewsHour Weekend that their code of ethics already has a provision for working on prisons. It says members need to put their professional skills and knowledge to practice to help enable and enhance human dignity as well as safety, health and welfare of the people and public in general.

Speaking about AIA, Sperry reiterated that it would have to take the group some time to agree to the fact that there are difficulties and problems in the criminal justice system.

These issues have been ignored. The sooner they understand this, the better.

Joseph Ogolla
Joseph Ogolla is a trained journalist who is very passionate about web content and news writing. He has spent the last five years working as a dedicated, professional freelance writer. Joseph writes website content, blog posts, magazine articles, news stories, press releases, product descriptions and, of course, prison news for Prison Rideshare Network. When Joseph is not writing content, he enjoys simply relaxing and listening to music.