by Chris Perrodin, Assoc. AIA, and Motoko Shoboji, AIA
On Friday, August 28, the 2020 class of the AIANY Civic Leadership Program (CLP) convened for its third remote development session, organized by Chris Perrodin, Assoc. AIA, and Motoko Shoboji, AIA. The session focused on the shifting forms of justice in New York City, allowing for the cohort to critique the different ways justice can be served in courts and communities. This session was particularly timely, given the Chapter’s recently published statement calling on architects to refrain from designing spaces of detention.
Though closing Rikers and the Borough-Based Jails plan can be seen as milestones in the city’s progress on justice reform, alternative forms of justice have continued to grow in response to the current punitive justice system—arrest, detention, trial, and incarceration. Alternative justice programs show a path towards a future justice system that is less centralized, more personal, restorative, transformative, and sustainable.
The session was broken into three parts, beginning with an introduction to the justice system in the United States and a survey of detention architecture in New York City. A few key takeaways included:
- The incarceration rate in America is disproportionally high compared to every other country in the world; a high percentage of incarcerated people are survivors of abuse or families affected by incarceration.
- Justice is unequally distributed in America across race and gender
- Progressive architectural detention center design alone does not guarantee a progressive justice system
- Alternative forms of justice and strategic community investment could help create a more sustainable, humane, and holistic form of justice in America
The introductory presentation was followed by a more focused and detailed discussion on the closing of Rikers and the Borough-Based Jails project, as well as social programs such as supportive housing currently underway in New York City. The invited speakers were:
- Frank Greene, FAIA, OAA, Greene Justice Architecture
- Nadine Maleh, NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
During the presentations, the cohort learned about the justice reform opportunities and potential obstacles in the Borough-Based Jails project. The cohort learned about the design-build project delivery proposed for the jails. They discussed about the potential for the jails to be designed so that the detention spaces can adaptively reused for the community if the detention population continues to decline.
Following the presentations, the session moved on to a panel discussion about alternative forms of justice that are currently being implemented. The invited panelists were:
- Jae Shepherd, Action St. Louis
- Minister Onleilove Chika Alston, M.Div., MSW, Urban Youth Alliance International, Inc.
- Raphael Sperry, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility
- Rob DeLeon, The Fortune Society, Inc
The panel discussion provided the CLP cohort with opportunities to understand the justice system from multiple perspectives. The cohort was able to learn about how justice can take different forms at the community and neighborhood level. Abolitionists explained the limits of the current justice system and discussed the barriers to reform. The cohort learned the importance for architects to be better informed, to become involved in the conversation, and to become better advocates for the communities that we serve.
Special thanks to:
John Pfaff (Fordham Law School), Sasha Ginzberg (Department of Correction), Hugh D. Lester PhDc (Urbahn Architects), Takeshi Miyakawa (Takeshi Miyakawa Design), Robert Turley (RobOnBass), Purnima Kapur (Urban Planning Consultant), Stanley Richards (The Fortune Society, Inc.), Erick Gregory (Department of City Planning), Margaret Castillo, FAIA (Department of Design and Construction – DDC), Lucy Lang (Former Institute for Innovation in Prosecution – IIP), Michael Kahn (IIP), Michelle Mason (IIP), Nicole Triplett (racial justice attorney), Valentina Morales (The Women’s Project), Steven Kaiser (Department of Corrections), Julia Solomons (The Bronx Defenders), Abraham Bendheim (Studio Gang), Leanne Zick, AIA (Perkins Eastman), Becky Yurek, AIA (DDC), Michaela Metcalfe, AIA (DDC)