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The Environmental Psychology of Prisons and Jails Richard Wener Talk to PRoF Meeting 3/27/2014.

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Presentation on theme: "The Environmental Psychology of Prisons and Jails Richard Wener Talk to PRoF Meeting 3/27/2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Environmental Psychology of Prisons and Jails Richard Wener Talk to PRoF Meeting 3/27/2014

2 This is a jail…

3 …and so is this.

4 This, too

5 People have always been held captive

6 not always safely…

7 or with respect.

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9 Digression: what’s it like to be an inmate? Well, now we all know…

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12 Federal Bureau of Prisons ‘Experiment’ in Jail Design 4/29/ New Generation – Direct Supervision Jails

13 4/29/201513

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15 Revolutionary for their time: Corrections Officer in living area supervise, not surveil Redefined CO job more responsibility, more interaction Inmates relative freedom within module access Normative Design less institutional changed expectations

16 Linear Intermitent Supervision Linear Intermittent Supervision

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18 San Diego

19 Chicago

20 New York

21 Respond to expectations Is this a place for humans or…other? 4/29/201521

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23 Contra Costa County, CA

24 Booking

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28 Principle : Normative Design leads to normative behavior Softer Architecture  Less Vandalism

29 Example 4/29/201529

30 4/29/201530

31 Found over 60 published studies – Anecdotal reports, case studies, surveys and quasi-field experiments – Studied over 200 jails and prisons Remarkable consistency in findings : – Safer – low assault, low vandalism – Less stressful, better for staff and inmates – Not more expensive to build or operate

32 Other prisons in other countries that take similar approach Norway, Austria, others Go even further

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36 View through lens of Environmental Stress Aspects of setting ↓ arousal, displeasure, tension, discomfort

37 Critical Things to Know About Stress Stress is cumulative. - multiple stressors at once worse - exposed to many at once in prison

38 … Stress greater if Uncontrollable, Unpredictable Variable in onset, offset & duration

39 Stress leads to –Physical illness – cardiovascular and other –Reduced cognitive abilities, concentration ability to learn, grow, solve immediate social and long term personal problems –Reduced ability to tolerate frustration –Increased irritability, aggression More risk of violence, disfunction –increases depression, learned helplessness 4/29/201539

40 People can adapt to many stressors - but at a cost

41 Life in total institution magnifies all stress effects Involuntary Extreme levels Long term exposure Multiple sources

42 drip, drip, drip, drip Lack of control goes from irritant to torture

43 Plus… loss of normal coping mechanisms… Sense of normality & stability Social contacts - family, friends, work, community Competence and control over life Ability to adjust environment

44 NO SHORTAGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL STRESSORS IN PRISONS & JAILS …TAKE YOUR PICK

45 Lack of Privacy

46 Crowding

47 Isolation

48 Noise

49 Lighting – (too much, too little, lack of daylight)

50 View & Lack of Access to Nature

51 Threat of Violence

52 Lack of Sleep

53 & many others –Heat –Cold –Odors –etc. etc. etc. 4/29/201553

54 Of the many sources of stress… Most significant - fear of violence Least considered - nature

55 Violence Why is violence lower in these new jails?

56 Most violence is defensive & reactive as… a response to fear a reaction to scarcity a response to stress

57 fear

58 Fear as “form giver” affects …. -The institution -The staff -The inmates

59 Institution - many layers created in response to real & perceived threats

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61 Staff - back-off…additional levels of separation –keeps staff behind glass or bars

62 Inmates- fear triggers self-preservation Get Weapons Safety in groups Act Aggressively Leads to downward spiral

63 Breaking the cycle… CO in control reduced fear

64 a reaction to scarcity Violence as a …

65 Scarcity breeds competition  aggression (principle of ecology) Incarceration creates scarcity

66 4/29/201566

67 Reduce scarcity by providing access

68 as response to stress Violence as a …

69 As stress increases from all sources… – Less tolerant – More irritable – More hostile – Less sociable

70 Stress and control Privacy options help reduce stress

71 Direct Supervision Jails try to address all these sources of violence… – Reduce fear – Increase access to resources – Reduce stresses – increase control options

72 Views of Nature Biophilia – EO Wilson

73 Significant research shows view of nature –Restorative for mental fatigue –Reduces stress – blood pressure –Improves recovery

74 Ulrich

75 Nature view in prison related to… Fewer incidents Reduced blood pressure in inmates Improves recovery from stress in staff

76 Impact of nature view on intake area staff Collected stress measures from all staff before & after change

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79 After the change… Did better on cognitive test Showed better physiological adjustment to tress of shift (heart rate variability)

80 Where is this going? Harder to build these in US Some positive trends elsewhere


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