Prison Design Faces Judgment

Amid the proliferation of prisons, debate over their future has exposed the facilities, and details of their architecture, to new scrutiny.

By Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times

August 30, 2013

It might be the most carefully hidden building boom in American architectural history. Over the last 40 years, beginning with strict drug-sentencing laws introduced in 1973 by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and quickly copied around the country, the number of prisons in this country has more than tripled, from 600 to nearly 2,000. In California, where the inmate population surged a staggering tenfold from 1975 to 2010, the construction of jails and prisons has accelerated even more quickly. Yet the buildings themselves have managed to stay shrouded. New prisons are often stashed in rural areas or in the lonelier corners of American downtowns, where in some cases they fill districts vacated in the postwar decades by residents and corporations decamping for the suburbs. More …

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