U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Forms of Constraint: History of Prison Architecture

NCJ Number
185009
Author(s)
Norman Johnston
Date Published
2000
Length
211 pages
Annotation
This book examines how prison design has evolved over the centuries, how it has taken shape in various parts of the world, and how it reflects the society that oversees it.
Abstract
Rigorously documented and generously illustrated, the book surveys prison architecture from earliest times to the present. Basing the discussion of architectural detail in a history of social ideas about prisoners and imprisonment, the author (a criminologist) considers the architectural design and features of prisons in the context of the purposes they were meant to serve. He shows how cycles of humane concern and reform efforts alternate and sometimes co-exist with periods of impatience with the criminal justice process and a desire to make imprisonment rigorous and unpleasant. The book describes the preferred types of prison layout in various eras and locations. It assesses the success or failure of building elements in fulfilling goals such as prisoner isolation, segregation by gender or by severity of crime, adequate hygiene, rehabilitative activities that range from religious instruction to vocational training, and surveillance of prisoners and guards. As goals and the consequent demands on the physical structure changed, new templates for the ideal prison emerged. The author traces the gradual rise of prison design as an architectural specialty and profiles the central early figures and organizations devoted to the field. He describes changes in prison design as architecture and penal philosophy leadership passed from one country to another. He also provides broad coverage of penal methods and prison architecture around the world. Glossary, chapter notes, and a subject index