Designer targets prison visits as a means of reducing re-offending

Friday 8 May 2009

A young designer from Middlesex University has won a prestigious RSA Design Directions award for her package of proposals on how prisons might improve the chances of offenders receiving regular, positive visits from friends and family.

Georgia Styalianou, who submitted her ideas to the RSA in January 2009, began by considering the role of the prison visit and the importance of maintaining family ties in relation to the rehabilitation process.

With research demonstrating that regular, positive visits can make a constructive contribution to lowering re-offending levels, Georgia focussed on what might encourage visits to happen and which barriers needed to be addressed.

Prisons visits - Words

Georgia’s discovered that often the initial encounters, both human and environmental, can set the tone and influence the experience of the whole visit. Targeting this early part of the visit process she identified key touchpoints where small improvements could be made.

Submitting her ideas to the Design Directions competition, the RSA’s judging panel considered that Georgia’s ideas would serve to alleviate anxiety about prison visits and provide an environment in which a visitor would consider returning. 

Commenting on the winning entry, the RSA’s Head of Design, Emily Campbell said:

“Georgia Stylianou’s solution is all about creating an environment that is legible to visitors rather than blank and alienating. Like all RSA design award winners, she’s really wrestled and prevailed in addressing a very difficult problem and we’re proud to recognise her achievement.”

Georgia’s produced a package of ideas which defined small changes that would contribute to making a big difference. These included:

  •  clear and welcoming signage and way-finding system
  •  signage that takes account of non-English speakers and others with literacy problems
  •  TV display screens outlining various procedures, including security checks, to reduce fear and anxiety
  •  a ‘wall of words’ in the waiting area to reflect the mixed emotions of visitors, not always easily expressed, that would also help to clarify thoughts and stimulate conversation
  •  a more informal, friendly badging system for officers, to reduce the sense of intimidation
  •  clearly defined spaces in the waiting area including a space for form-filling  and confidential Q&A with volunteer helpers
Download full press release containing winning designs (PDF, 123KB)

View gallery of winning entries for RSA Design Directions 2008-09