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Rehab City: Reimagining Incarceration’s Physical and Mental Infrastructure

Rehab City: Reinventing the Architecture of Incarceration

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As an architect and educator who has been disappointed by the many problems faced by an unprepared convict who has just been released for the third time from jail, I feel it is past time to reassess the purpose and form of imprisonment in an age of social justice and equality. The following is an example of such a project, dubbed Rehab City.

But, first and foremost, it is not a college campus, even though there will be several possibilities for learning. It is not a psychiatric facility, even though it will surely provide residents with therapeutic services. And it is not a Work Camp, even though there will be plenty of opportunities to feel the dignity and self-confirmation that comes with working. It’s called Rehab City, and it’s an alternative.

Rehab City may be likened to a walled city, with the emphasis on the word city, in that the convicts, or residents,’ live in single-occupancy rooms in a guarded environment. Also reminiscent of a classic monastery, where labor and study take precedence, Rehab City may also be compared to the traditional Main Street, where individuals dwell above their places of employment.

Rehabilitation City is not just an updated version of the traditional prison paradigm; instead, it entirely reimagines the daily routine of its residents by offering a safe environment in which to work, study, get treatment and engage in recreational activities and activities. It is the first time that the architecture of Rehab City has been completely re-envisioned, with every square foot of the buildings and landscape being programmed and designed to prepare the residents for their eventual release and transition from being incarcerated to becoming contributing members of civil society.

Work takes up four hours per day, six days a week for the residents, who earn electronic credits that are used to pay for the upkeep of Rehab City (20 percent) as well as an additional 20 percent that can be saved in a savings account and later converted into dollars upon their release from the facility. The remaining 60 percent of their income is used to meet their daily expenditures, including dining at resident-run Rehab City eateries (there are no cafeterias in Rehab City), laundry, and even renovating their single-occupancy apartments if necessary.

Approximately an extra 4 hours each day, six days a week, are spent in either Learning leading to certificates and certification or therapy. Recreation receives an equivalent of 4 hours per day, six days a week, from the government. Within the confines of Rehab City, residents are free to move about without the need for an escort, thanks to the use of an Ultra-Wideband Technology (UWB) bracelet that grants them access to assigned activity spaces while also keeping track of the hours they spend at work, in school, in therapy, and recreation. It also keeps track of electronic credits earned and credits spent, and in the process, it teaches students about personal finance.

These are the fundamental components of Rehab City, starting with the most superficial cell or tiny residence and progressing to the whole Rehab City in all of its dimensions:
One end of the resident’s cell is equipped with wide sliding doors that the resident and staff can control, while the other end is fitted with an equally big window that allows for plenty of natural light and fresh air to enter. Three-foot-by-eight-foot zones along the sides each have a private shower and toilet, eliminating the need for shared restrooms. Additional space along the sidewalls provides space for increased sleeping, storage, and study tables, as well as a kitchenette. Citizens of Rehab City have constructed these structures, which may be paid for using the electronic credits earned by the residents. When it is permissible, the sleeping area may be modified with bunk and trundle beds to accommodate women and young children in addition to males.
There are 13 individuals living in micro-apartments on a typical residential floor, with a floor monitor, sometimes known as a ‘lifer,’ in charge of keeping an eye on this little community. A neighboring fire escape landing or fresh air terrace with plants serves as a gathering spot on one end of the laundry room’s long wall. The sizeable inside corridor serves as an indoor street, where the inhabitants may continue to mingle and perhaps build a self-sufficient unit in the process of establishing one.
Residential buildings are similar to urban apartment buildings in that three floors of mini neighborhoods are stacked one upon the other on the first floor of the building. No inhabitants are permitted to depart the building by passing via adjoining floors. A greenhouse is located on the roof of each pair of residential buildings. The greenhouse provides year-round crops for Rehab City Restaurants while also providing residents with training in the latest greenhouse technologies. A second rooftop is a home to solar panels constructed and installed by homeowners to provide electricity to the linked buildings. Building Engineering Certification is available to those who design, fabricate, and maintain the state-of-the-art energy systems found in a typical installation, among other things.

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