Prisons and Justice

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the role it plays in correctional design

By Craig Blewitt

Have you ever noticed how some built spaces feel inherently comfortable and homely, and others can feel unwelcoming and unnerving? From a design perspective, there are many factors behind this dichotomy – scale, materiality, orientation to name but a few.

As designers, we always aim to create comfortable and welcoming spaces, but have you ever paused to wonder how that feeling of being truly comfortable is created on a psychological level? Instead of thinking about what a place needs for us to feel comfortable, perhaps we should be asking the reverse - what do we need to feel comfortable in a place?

If you’ve ever taken an introductory psychology class, you’ve more than likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. If we start at the bottom of the hierarchy and move upwards, the needs are physiological, safety, love or belonging, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualisation and transcendence.

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The bottom four needs are characterised as deficiency needs. These needs arise from deprivation and are said to motivate people when the need is unmet. The motivation to fulfil deficiency needs becomes stronger, the longer they are denied. For example, the longer you go without food, the hungrier you are. The top four needs are characterised as growth needs. These stem not from the lack of something, but from a desire to grow as a person.

All sounds a bit too cryptic and abstract? Stick with me; it gets interesting when you apply this theory to the buildings and spaces we live in and view their design through this lens. For me, it gets even more interesting when you apply the theory to my area of expertise, the design of correctional facilities.

In many ways, the hierarchy that Maslow has given to human needs mirrors the progression that we aim for prisoners to experience during their time inside. Firstly, they are given accommodation and a place in which they hopefully feel safe (the basic needs).

Then, through programs and counselling, they try to repair relationships and rebuild their sense of self-esteem (the psychological needs). Finally, with education and rehabilitative support, prisoners hopefully reach a point where they have the skills and confidence to rejoin society upon their release (the self-fulfilment needs).

If the ultimate goal is for prisoners to progress to through the needs to reach the self-actualisation stage (rehabilitation) and the transcendence stage (helping others), then we need to consider what we can incorporate into designs to help each of the preceding needs to be met.

Ravenhall Correctional Centre.   Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Ravenhall Correctional Centre. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Physiological needs

While all prisons provide the basic needs of shelter and food, the design of facilities determines how well these needs are met. This includes the provision of natural ventilation for fresh air, heating and cooling to maintain a comfortable temperature range and acoustic treatments that allow for a quiet place for rest. All of these areas help in meeting the physiological needs of prisoners.

Safety needs

Creating an environment that feels safe for both staff and prisoners is always a challenge. The knee jerk reaction is often to create physical barriers to separate prisoner groups from each other and staff.

But simple things like designing in good passive surveillance, encouraging interaction between prisoners and staff, and the creation of spaces that range from private areas of seclusion to larger communal spaces, can often have a greater effect in making a correctional facility feel safe.

Love and belonging needs

We often, quite rightly, focus on destressing and normalising the experience for visitors so that prisoners can maintain a connection to loved ones. However, to properly address the need for ‘belonging’, our designs also need to enable a sense of community within correctional facilities, particularly for prisoners with longer sentences. Small things like creating gardens that prisoners can look after, and the installation of prisoner artwork can create a sense of ownership and belonging.

Hopkins Correctional Centre.   Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Hopkins Correctional Centre. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Esteem needs

A great example of building self-esteem through design is the design of spaces that cater for people with disabilities to provide them with an increased sense of dignity and independence. The same focus on increasing dignity and independence can also be applied to the design of correctional facilities.

Technologies such as full-body scanners can improve prisoners sense of dignity through reducing the need for strip searches, the use of self-catering facilities for meals and laundry can improve prisoners sense of independence, and the provision of educational programs can provide prisoners with a sense of achievement. All of which can help improve prisoners sense of self-worth.

Cognitive needs

Inside a correctional centre, the freedom to learn and absorb knowledge can often be restricted by the environment. However, technology is making information and learning more and more accessible to prisoners.

About the Author

Craig Blewitt is one of our most experienced correctional architects, managing all correctional and justice projects in our Brisbane Studio and assisting on the large correctional projects managed by our Melbourne Studio.

Biophilic Design in Prisons

By Rachel Hur

Scenario

Imagine that you are in a cubicle located in the middle of the office floor plate. Your office has a glazed front, but you are looking into another open office. You have no real window or view to the outside, so you can't tell if it's raining outside or sunny. If you are lucky, and you do have a window, it's fixed, and you are looking into an office in the neighbouring building that is five metres away.

The fluorescent lighting that you sit under for eight hours has thrown out your body's natural circadian rhythm. The ventilation is alright, but you start to feel droopy at around 3pm because the carbon dioxide levels in your shoebox have risen. It might even feel a bit stuffy, regardless of the door being open or closed. As you don't have an operable window, you have been breathing in recycled air all day. When you get outside and take a breath, you will instantly notice that the air outside is fresh.

Now multiply that by five days a week, 48 weeks a year. Maybe you will get a pot plant in a few weeks.

The Biophilia Hypothesis

Exposure to the natural world is essential for human wellbeing because humans have an innate connection with the natural world (Gills).

It sounds obvious, doesn't it? But how often do we rely on the natural world to recharge and reconnect? We live in a world full of distractions and in a culture that prioritises efficiency, quick change and instant gratification. Is it any wonder that the rates of anxiety and depression are increasing, and our knowledge and awareness of mental health issues and mindfulness are growing to combat this?

We need the natural environment now more than ever. To look beyond the concrete jungle that has become our normal life, and find moments to breathe, destress and recover. Nature has been there all along, patiently waiting for us to stop, take a breath and recharge.

What does this have to do with design and architecture, you might ask?

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.  Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Biophilic Design – what is it?

Biophilic design philosophy encourages the use of natural systems and processes in design to allow for exposure to nature. Exposure to nature has been found to have positive responses on human psychology and physiology in contribution to improved health and wellbeing (Gills, Soderlund).

It is the integration of the biophilia hypothesis into design. Biophilic design has been further incorporated into environmental psychology theories of Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Recovery Theory. Both theories suggest that there are stressful and non-stressful environments and that non-stressful environments can actively help people recover from stress and fatigue (Gills).

These theories are supported by studies that have found that exposure to nature reduces heart rate variability and pulse rates, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, while lowering sympathetic nervous system activity (Soderlund).

Biophilia is not merely about providing trees and greenery, but consists of different natural layers, which can be divided into direct experience of nature (light, air, weather), indirect experience of nature (natural materials, evoking nature) and the experience of space and place (prospect and refuge, organised complexity).

What do we do with it?

As we specialise in correctional facilities here at Guymer Bailey, we strive to create humane environments that allow for rehabilitation. One of the key ways we do this is using biophilic design.

Let's face it; prisons are known to be "not nice". When we look at the statistics, 44.8% of prisoners released during 2014 – 2015 returned to prison within two years across Australia.

With a design focus on rehabilitation and not punishment, part of this rehabilitation is creating therapeutic spaces and calm environments where people can feel safe and secure. A lot of our decisions in the design process are around biophilic design such as providing access to natural light and fresh air, views to the landscape and use of colour and materials.

Enhancing living quality doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, it just comes down to prioritising and efficient design, and in the case of our secure facilities, the balance with security requirements.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre, a project completed almost a year ago in the Grampians Region, is an example of successful biophilic design implementation with views out beyond the perimeter fence to the mountains, natural light in every room for both residents and staff, and either operable windows or natural ventilation units in every room across the site. Timber has also been used internally and externally, and we retained as many existing trees as possible to keep that connection to nature. So far, we have received positive staff feedback about the therapeutic design of the facility and the benefits of being able to open all the office windows.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre.  Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

What can you do with it?

Biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive performance and positively impact emotions and mood. What's more, it can be implemented in all typologies, including residential, education, commercial, health, and as you have seen corrections. We've even started to implement it in our own studios.

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Our Brisbane studio has many operable windows, granted Brisbane has much better weather than Melbourne! In Melbourne, we are restricted from major modifications because we're on the fifth floor of a building but have a row of potted peace lilies to help filter the air. We have also recently replaced a fixed window with operable louvres, and even though it's only one, we've already started feeling the difference in the air (and no, it's not just the cold air of winter!). The CO2 levels are lower on that side of the studio as well.

It's not the easiest thing to change in a building already built, but biophilic design is something that we can design into new projects. Hospitals are seeing the benefits of biophilia for patients and have started building in courtyards and windows. Prisons are doing it; schools are doing it. When will you start doing it?

References

Gillis, K., Gatersleben, B. "A Review of Psychological Literature on Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Biophilic Design"

Soderlund, J., Newman, P. "Improving Mental Health in Prisons Through Biophilic Design"

About the Author

Rachel Hur specialises correctional architecture with a strong focus on rehabilitation and creating therapeutic spaces. This, combined with her passion for sustainability and biophilic design in prisons, makes her a valued member of the Guymer Bailey corrections team. Rachel was the Project Lead on the Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre, which was recently shortlisted in the 2019 Victorian Architecture Awards Sustainability Category.

Ravenhall Correctional Centre wins Master Builders Award

Ravenhall Correctional Centre designed by Guymer Bailey Architects and built by John Holland Group won the Master Builders Victoria Excellence in Construction of Commercial Buildings over $80M award at the 2018 Excellence in Construction Awards.

Ravenhall Correctional Centre, which is aiming to become the benchmark for rehabilitative prisons worldwide, is the largest prison in Victoria, currently one of the largest correctional facilities in Australia and the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) prison to be delivered on time.

The Correctional Centre consists of 42 buildings within a secure perimeter wall and a further five buildings external of the wall to cater for other services and government facilities. Buildings include medium-security and transitional accommodation, residential accommodation, medical facilities, reception and visiting areas and industry buildings for trade training.

Director of Guymer Bailey and lead Architect on the project, Kavan Applegate, said, “The Ravenhall Correctional Centre has been four years in the making and a combined effort across our architecture, landscape and interiors teams. Our builders, John Holland Group, have brilliantly executed our drawings to built form, and we extend our congratulations on winning the Master Builders Award.”

Over 63,000 plants were used in the landscaping of the Correctional Centre with multiple sports courts, shelters and external fitness equipment also designed by our landscaping team.

Rob Waddell, Principal Landscape Architect on the project, said, “Access to and interaction with the natural environment positively impacts on human physical, social and cultural needs. The landscape design for Ravenhall seeks to physically and psychologically reconnect prisoners with quality outdoor spaces, which will directly impact on prisoner health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.”

South Coast Correctional Centre Expansion Open and Ready for Inmates

The new 200-bed minimum-security wing at the South Coast Correctional Centre (SCCC), designed by Guymer Bailey Architects, has been opened by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Justice and inmates have started to be transferred.

The minimum-security wing expansion which has been designed to feel more like a campus than a correctional centre, includes accommodation for inmates, health facilities, staff amenities, a programs building and an industry building.

The new facility is part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion infrastructure program to help reduce recidivism rates among offenders through upgraded educational and work programs. With more than 80% of inmates at SCCC enrolled in a trade or other upskilling program, these new facilities will significantly assist with the rehabilitation of offenders.

Allan Pearson, the Senior Architect on the project, said, “The South Coast Correctional Centre expansion has been two and a half years in the making, so it is a great achievement to see the new minimum-security wing open.” 

The stand-alone facility is part of a broader expansion that also includes a 160-bed maximum-security wing that is expected to open at the site next year.

RAVENHALL PRISON NAMED AUSTRALIA’S BEST INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT

Victoria’s $670 million Ravenhall Prison Project has been named as Australia’s best infrastructure project at Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s National Infrastructure Awards.

Ravenhall Prison - Original concept design

“It is exciting to see the Ravenhall Prison Project win the Project of the Year Award as it is the first privately delivered prison project Victoria has seen in about 20 years – delivered on-budget and on-time”
— IPA Chief Executive Adrian Dwyer.

Gatehouse

“The Ravenhall Prison Project fundamentally transforms the way that support is provided to people in the justice system in Victoria.

“In a Victorian first, the proponents will oversee all elements of the prison’s operations, including custodial services, with performance targets to directly reduce the rate of recidivism.

“Australia is a world leader in bringing together the public and private sectors through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to deliver better outcomes for the community.

“The Ravenhall Prison Project is a stellar example of the evolution of the PPP model in Australia and shows what can be achieved when the public and private sectors collaborate to achieve good outcomes.

“I pass on my congratulations to the winners of the Project of the Year Award tonight,” Mr Dwyer said.

Transitions Hub Courtyard

Community 4 

Cell Building Day Room

Internal recreation space


The National Infrastructure Awards are convened by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia each year, recognising excellence in public administration and business, across major projects. The Project of the Year is the most prestigious of the Awards.

SHEPPARTON COURTS | WORK IN PROGRESS

Work in progress photos from Shepparton Law Courts – Practical completion is expected next week for Stage 1 works.

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For monthly progress updates follow @CourtSVic on Twitter and #SheppCourts
— Court Services Victoria

Project Team

Builder: ADCO Construction

Principle Consultant: Architectus Group Pty Ltd, GHD Woodhead and Guymer Bailey Architects

Project Manager: Ontoit

Quantity Surveyor: Wilde and Woolard