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shareefah smith

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reparation by way of rehabilitation: rethinking prison architecture in a post-apartheid south africa

South Africa has an unfortunate history of using the control of incarceration and penal legislation to lawfully incarcerate, torture, and execute political activists and people of colour for centuries. Prisons, correctional facilities, and detention centres symbolise, mirror, and shape the societies in which they exist. This design dissertation critically analyses the architecture of prisons in the historical and social contexts of South Africa during apartheid and post-apartheid. The intention is that by considering the memory, practice, and actuality of prison architecture, the process of transformation can be better envisioned and ultimately, ensured.

The reality of current prison conditions depicts an unceasing circle of overcrowding, gangsterism, violence, poor rehabilitation procedures, and high recidivism among prisoners, rendering these spaces inhumane, undignified, and unsafe not only for prisoners and detainees, but for prison officials and staff as well. The power of architectural practice in this instance needs to consider its own limitations and potential in ensuring that prisons, as a manifestation of unfreedom in a democratic society, is striving for the humane and safe detainment of the occupants forced to exist within its walls. A complex system of social control and freedom is analysed against the process of incarceration from remand detention to prison release so that the rehabilitative procedures of diversion and reintegration is implemented.

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