Questions to ask when designing and planning prisons

24 August 2016

In the course of their activities, ICRC detention teams around the world are increasingly aware of plans to build new prisons. A number of practices relating to such projects cause us serious concern.

The human consequences of a poorly conceived new prison structure can be catastrophic. The safety and physical and mental health of detainees and staff are placed at risk, often for decades to come. Badly designed buildings, instead of facilitating humane treatment and living in the prison space, constrain them. This is a missed opportunity for reform and improvement.

The ICRC is producing a guide on the planning and design of prisons to be released in early 2017. This publication aims to encourage, before building schemes are initiated, careful thought about possible alternatives to constructing new prisons. When a well-founded decision to build is taken, the manual aims to ensure that the human consequences of planning processes and design decisions for detainees, staff and communities are considered and taken into account at the correct stage.