Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Re-entry Facility in San Diego County.
A digital magazine launched in 2013 that focuses “not simply on where the world is but, more importantly, where the world is going,” and whose investors include Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, recently profiled a California correctional facility that includes thousands of correctional furniture products from Norix.
OZY Media, which USA Today says “targets news-starved millennials,” featured the Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Re-entry Facility in San Diego County in a recent article under the headline “Can Architecture Cure Crime?” and highlighted the facility’s “grassy amphitheater and palm trees, volleyball nets, even a yoga studio,” and noted both the “abundant natural light, murals of waves crashing into the cliffside.”
The design, aesthetics and experience of the facility’s design falls in line with an emerging trend in corrections where facilities depart from the sterile and institutional feeling that has historically been found in these environments. This new trend makes use of color, art and landscaping to create a more normalized environment to benefit both inmates and staff. It also makes use of furniture that is more aesthetically pleasing, constructed of materials other than steel and is more residential in appearance. This humanistic approach to design is believed to decrease inmate violence and help reduce recidivism rates.
“Our design team researched this premise and studied facilities in Europe that have found success through the approach of humanizing correctional facilities,” Pam Maynard, Director of Interior Architecture for HMC Architects, a firm that was part of designing and building the facility, told Norix Furniture. “This research confirms that the environments in which people live, learn, heal and are governed in, can affect us both psychologically and physiologically in both negative and positive ways depending on various environmental qualities.”
The OZY article goes on to say that in “an era when more women than ever are imprisoned — the female incarcerated population in the U.S. shot up nearly tenfold between 1980 and 2010, to 205,000 — Las Colinas is testing a new theory: by treating inmates as autonomous, responsible human beings, they might actually behave like autonomous, responsible human beings. Some would say it’s taking a woman’s touch. There’s not a barbed wire in sight (they’re there, just not visible), and long outdoor walkways provide a feeling of freedom.”
For its part, Norix Furniture supplied multiple lines of furniture, including beds, tables, chairs, video visitation equipment, desks, nightstands, bookshelves and other products that fall in line with this new trend. The furniture comes in the colors of nature and matches the mural artwork. Upholstery is used in appropriate areas as a way to make it feel more residential and normalized. Outdoor furniture that is aesthetically pleasing sits among landscaped courtyards that echo the southern California terrain. All of this furniture, it must be stated, is still equipped with the rugged durability and safeguards that are appropriate for constant use environments such as correctional facilities.
In particular, the facility features the following Norix Furniture correctional furniture products.
• Custom Attenda Beds
• Attenda Desks
• Attenda Nightstands
• Attenda Bookshelves
• Forté Café Tables
• Forté Chairs (including upholstered chairs)
• Integra Chairs
Other products that in the facility include Stainless Steel Intelestations® for video visitation units, EconoMax® Tables, Gibraltar™ Beam Seating, Hilltop Tables and Ironman® Clothes Hooks and Mirrors.
This is not the first time that the project has been featured by a news outlet that focuses on change and the future. Co.Exist, a Fast Company brand and news site that reports on “groundbreaking innovation, innovation that’s going to change the way we live and the resources we use,” earlier this year featured an article written by two architects involved in San Diego project.
In this article, the architects report that Los Colinas “is the first detention facility of its kind in the U.S. that uses environmental and behavioral psychology to improve the experience and behavior of both inmates and staff,” and that the “idea is that if you treat inmates as autonomous and responsible human beings (albeit within a controlled and managed environment), they will be more likely to act accordingly.”
Will correctional officials around the country follow San Diego’s lead and begin to create and design more humanistic facilities? And will facilities like these actually reduce recidivism rates and keep inmates and staff safer? It’s hard to say at this point.
Regardless, as the OZY article points out, “while it remains to be seen whether administrators will succeed at rebuilding lives, few would doubt that they’ve built a one-of-a-kind facility.”
For more information, read our case study on the San Diego facility and visit our website to learn more about our complete line of correctional furniture.