Designing with inmates
At the Embassy of Safety, we are looking for new answers to solve social questions about safety. Security is often a bottleneck in complex social issues. The answers usually come from existing structures and protocols. With new concepts and prototypes, designers can create space for a different approach within the existing, static system.
A good example is ‘The White Building’. The White Building is a social project that focuses on the successful return of prisoners to society to help reduce the high number of repeat offenders in the Netherlands. The project has been initiated by ‘civic design consultancy’ This is BOUW, founded in 2014 by French designers Laura Ferriere and Eléonore Delisse.
This is BOUW works with prisoners in the final stage of their imprisonment. In four-week periods, they work on a topic relevant to them. They conduct research, develop a concept and then translate it into an end product. The working period is aimed at helping inmates develop their talents and interests. There is time to reflect, set goals and work towards a stable and independent post-release situation.
For example, This is BOUW designed the lunch concept “Take your place, share food”, including the tables and eating utensils, in collaboration with prisoners. During lunch, several guests sit together at the table: from inmates to the director of the prison. This concept aims to bring people from different backgrounds together within the prison and to create the opportunity for conversation without prejudice. The cutlery is a combination of chopsticks, forks and spoons, making it suitable for any culture and background. All table guests also wear the same vests so that there is no sense of hierarchy based on physical appearance by means of suits or T-shirts.