Landmark study suggests new approach to prison building to reduce crime

Ahead of the £1.3 billion prison building programme planned by the Ministry of Justice, a new study has set out recommendations for reform to the way prison buildings are designed and operated.

If implemented, the study suggests these changes could reduce assaults on staff by over 50%, significantly reduce the stress under which staff work, reduce overall lifecycle costs and see prisoners rehabilitated – cutting reoffending rates in England and Wales, which currently stand at some of the highest in Europe. In fact, figures show that just under half of all adult prisoners are likely to reoffend within one year of release at a cost to the tax payer of £13 billion a year.

Compiled by a panel of expert criminologists and psychologists with input from charities, prisoners, victims and prison managers the new report, entitled ‘Rehabilitation by Design: Encouraging Change in Prisoner Behaviour’, examines how reforming management methods and prison design could significantly improve that outlook.

It asserts that the primary aim for any new prison programme must be to address the huge reoffending rate and suggests this could be achieved through the use of innovative yet cost effective changes to the built environment. It goes on to investigate the ways in which behavioural policies and clever design principles have benefited prison systems abroad, and how these initiatives could be successfully implemented in the UK.

The report was presented to MPs, peers and industry experts today in a reception at the House of Commons. It has been spearheaded by property and construction consultancy Gleeds and features contributions from a number of academics, including; Professor Keith Humphreys of the University of Stanford and Professor Yvonne Jewkes from the University of Brighton, with the support of management consultants PwC.

Richard Steer, Chairman of Gleeds Worldwide, said: “This new study offers some fantastic insights into how we can maximise the opportunity presented by the proposed new build prisons programme. By reviewing the way in which we design and operate our facilities we have the chance to make some truly positive changes to the criminal justice system, reducing reoffending rates and making our prisons both safer and more efficient for inmates and staff.”

Professor of Criminology and expert in prison design, Yvonne Jewkes added: “In bringing together examples of some of the most effective criminal justice systems from around the world, coupled with original data and expert commentary, we have created an invaluable resource for the UK Government. The recommendations contained within the report have been carefully considered, are easily implemented and have been proven to be hugely effective in reducing rates of recidivism, minimising violence and maximising value for money. As the country embarks upon a landmark programme of reform you could not hope for a better starting point from which to work.”

Download the full report here.