AIA New York urges architects to ‘stop designing harmful spaces of incarceration’
October 6, 2020
The American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter (AIANY) is calling on architects to no longer “design unjust, cruel, or harmful spaces of incarceration within the current United States justice system, such as prisons, jails, detention centers, and police stations.”
“We instead urge our members to shift their efforts towards supporting the creation of new systems, processes, and typologies based on prison reform, alternatives to imprisonment, and restorative justice,” said a newly released statement by the AIANY board of directors.
Until more comprehensive policy changes are made on a national scale, good design alone is not enough to remove or overcome the racism inherent within the criminal justice system, the statement said. “It is time we listen to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities that have long suffered due to unjust societal norms and outcomes.”
“We must all take actionable steps to address the racism sustained by our criminal justice system,” the statement said.
As part of this policy, AIANY will embark on several initiatives:
through programming starting in late Fall 2020 and exhibitions, AIANY will examine architecture’s role in the criminal justice system, using open and interdisciplinary discussions to increase awareness and knowledge within the professional community, while highlighting the voices of those who have suffered within the system;
through government advocacy, they will push to limit construction of new criminal justice facilities, and with the AIANY Political Action Fund, their chapter’s political action committee, will actively support candidates who believe in reducing criminal justice facility construction and implementing further criminal justice reforms;
AIANY’s Architecture for Justice Committee will be reconstituted to increase focus on largescale justice issues and reduce the current emphasis on the design of criminal justice facilities;
they will advocate that AIA National, AIA New York State, and their fellow chapters adopt similar positions to discourage design of criminal justice facilities that uphold the current system; and
projects in this typology may be submitted to the AIANY Design Awards program, however, jury instructions for judging will prioritize projects demonstrating excellence in the support of systems, processes, and typologies based on prison reform, alternatives to imprisonment, restorative justice, and investment in communities of color.
“Over the coming months and years, AIANY and its members have a great deal of work ahead of us,” the statement said. “We embrace this challenge knowing that effective advocacy can change policies and attitudes within our society.”