Raphael Sperry, president of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), has written a passionate plea to architects not to design spaces used for torture or execution: “These spaces are not there by mistake or happenstance or historical precedent: they are designed. The tools and talents you use to design houses, offices, schools, kitchens, bathrooms—these tools can be used to injure or kill people.” Sperry leads ADPSR’s campaign petitioning the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct “to prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” including execution chambers and “super-maximum” security facilities where solitary confinement is considered cruel and intolerable.
Make no mistake: prison construction is big business, and the moral implications for architects are important. According to the ACLU, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but more than 20% of its prison population. Private corporations now operate 5% of the 5,000 prisons and jails in the U.S. but house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, and private prisons are growing at a rate of 30% per year. Yet, last year, prison architecture represented only about 2% of all non-residential construction.
What of the other 98%?
Everyday construction could be deadlier. Amnesty International reports that from 2007-2012 nine countries with capital punishment (excluding China, which puts to death thousands annually) executed a total of 6,221 people. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012 alone buildings contributed to the deaths of 4.3 million people. All of these were due to a single cause: indoor air pollution. […]