Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Reducing Recidivism Not Rights: Rethinking Interior Architecture as a solution for New Zealand's failing prisons

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posted on 2021-11-23, 19:34 authored by Abernethy, Luuk

This thesis argues that the design of the built environment of a prison can have a huge impact on lowering recidivism rates of prisoners in New Zealand. It proposes that this can be achieved through the development of a new health model/framework that facilitates positive relationships between families, prison staff and other inmates; supports spiritual, mental and physical health; equips inmates for participation to society upon release; and gives them a sense of identity. It further argues that this framework can then be applied to the design process to create a new precedent for prison design that effectively rehabilitates and reintegrates its inmates into society. The work of key architects, and theorists such as Hohensinn Architektur and Dominique Moran, have been analysed to help translate their successful designs and theories into a New Zealand model of correctional facility.  Prisons are institutions of deprivation and isolation. Marginalised by and separated from community, they are maintained by physical and psychological structures designed only to isolate. Imprisonment results in individuals embittered and hardened by the experience, who are likely to reoffend, and become lifelong participants in the criminal justice system. New Zealand’s prison population has been substantially increasing since the 1980s. The current imprisonment rate per population is the second highest in the Western World, second only to the United States. This increase is due to a combination of changes in political economy, an attitude of exclusion of minority groups by the criminal justice system and a rise in penal populism. New Zealand currently imprisons 212 people for every 100,000, and has a recidivism rate of 50 percent. Māori represent over 50 percent of our prison population, whilst only 15 percent of the overall New Zealand population. These statistics are self-evident; our prisons aren’t working. They are not successfully rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates into society.  This design-led research investigation offers a new process for prison design: one that strives to design for humans, humans of intrinsic moral worth. This is based on the premise that all people are capable of change and improvement; creating impactful change through design to the extremely high recidivism rates of inmates in New Zealand.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Interior Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Interior Architecture

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Pelosi, Antony