why does prisons have often very specific building layouts


Such as in Rikers Island, NYC where are many prison buildings shaped to letter X (or plus sign)
and in Europe they are often shaped into circle or pentagon/hexagon shapes.

In: 0

We need to just get over a hump of “why “Prison””. Early US prisons were called “penitentiaries” because the logic was largely to keep convicts in isolation, where they could pray and think about their deeds, you know, have *penitence* for their crimes. They would realize the error of their ways and readapt to society. Contrast that to the idea of a “prison” where a person is sent to remove them society and they can’t do further harm. The idea of “why prison” has changed over time.

Eventually, if the take the outlook that prisoners are dangerous people who are being locked up to protect society, you easy move to the idea that they need to be guarded with force. That means building a fortified structure designed to keep people in as easily as possible.

The US largely takes the latter view and so builds prisons as sort of reverse military bases, creating interior pinch points, so called “killing fields” where very few people can project force over a large number of people. So designs like Xs all for centralized corridors where few people can see everywhere from the center, and project force along long fields of narrow corridors.

I can’t say much for every European nation, but some Nordic countries famously hold to the former view, making a location where convicts can safely rehabilitate themselves and learn to be reintegrated into society. When you start with that point of view, you develop architecture accordingly.

If I remember correctly, the design was thought up in 18th century London, and meant to make it easier for guards to see everything from the center.

There was a design plan to reduce the number of staff the prison officer could look down a corridor and see all the prisoners and see if anything was going on reducing the number of corners and nooks helps them maintain control.