The ecosystem of detention houses

The ecosystem of detention houses

Detention houses have emerged on the local, national and, more recently, even the European level, attracting the attention of policymakers, researchers, practitioners and civil society. These detention houses are based on three principles that reinforce each other: small-scale, differentiation and community-integration. If people are to be deprived of their liberty as a pre-trial measure or as a sentence, a detention house provides the right context for each individual. To fully grasp the value and potential of detention houses, we need to look beyond their observable features (like their scale or location) and consider all dimensions of their ecosystem. This blog text will explain this ecosystem approach and how this can be applied to justice reform.

Detention houses as healthy ecosystems

The ecosystem of a detention house is shaped by the individuals that are connected to the detention house, their communities and society as a whole, which all mutually influence each other. Incarcerated people mostly stay at the detention house, while staff members come and go on a daily basis. Visitors may enter for a shorter period of time and then leave again, which is also the case for psychologists, teachers, and social workers. Incarcerated people may also leave the detention houses to go to school and return in the evening, for example. All the individuals involved interact in a web of relationships, together shaping the social environment in and around the detention house. These relationships can be facilitated, or impeded or blocked, by other features like architectural design, work and education opportunities, psychosocial support, staff well-being, the use of technology etc. Considering all these dimensions in and around a detention house in a holistic way is what we call the ecosystem perspective on detention houses. In healthy ecosystems, all different elements reinforce each other when they interact to form an effective and harmonious system. For example, when the design helps to create a constructive social climate, when staff members contribute to relational security, when neighbouring schools are supported to include incarcerated people among their students etc. The reverse can also happen: a disruptive factor can throw the ecosystem out of balance. 

Towards safe, sustainable and inclusive societies

The ecosystem of a detention house is not limited to the physical boundaries of the detention house, nor is it limited to the boundaries of the criminal justice system. On the contrary, it exists at the junction of other ecosystems: that of the criminal justice system, the health care and mental health care system, the education system, the employment system etc. These different ecosystems interact and overlap, just as the ecosystems of forests and lakes do in nature. Such a holistic approach to detention houses is needed because of the complex nature of the social challenges they are facing and trying to meet. Crime and its root causes find their origin in the complexity of social issues. Therefore, societal reactions to crime cannot be isolated from the society. At the same time, it is clear that part of the current pressure on the criminal justice system is due to shortcomings in other systems, such as the mental health care system. These pressures cannot be solved by detention houses if not addressed holistically. The key is therefore to involve society in the implementation of detention houses and appeal to the shared responsibilities of justice, health care, mental health care, education, employment and other relevant systems in society.

Increasing the know-how on detention houses

So, how to grasp this ecosystem of a detention house? That journey has been kicked off on 20 March 2024, with more than 80 experts from across Europe, discussing 14 different topics related to detention houses and exploring their interconnectedness. The experts’ insights have informed the establishment of various Knowledge Workspaces managed by RESCALED, which are designed to dive into specific topics while always considering the broader ecosystem of a detention house. Each Knowledge Workspace serves as a space for connections between research, practice and policy, as well as different perspectives and backgrounds. These connections foster new insights, shared understanding and innovative solutions, and this know-how can subsequently support the implementation of detention houses in Europe, with continuous reflection and improvement of the existing knowledge. It is only through this comprehensive and systemic approach that we can be confident that the justice reform from large prison institutions to detention houses contributes to more inclusive, safe and sustainable societies.

We look forward to spearheading this process with the RESCALED Movement!

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Nature-based detention houses

This post was originally published on 24th October 2023 by Penal Reform International. In a context of climate crisis and rising costs, prisons, like all institutions, must take

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The ecosystem of detention houses

Detention houses have emerged on the local, national and, more recently, even the European level, attracting the attention of policymakers, researchers, practitioners and civil society.

Repost
Small-scale detention

Originally published on 19 April 2024 in Italian at www.rapportoantigone.it This model of detention refers to three fundamental principles: small-scale, differentiation and community-integration On March

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Repost
Nature-based detention houses

This post was originally published on 24th October 2023 by Penal Reform International. In a context of climate crisis and rising costs, prisons, like all institutions, must take

INSPIRE
The ecosystem of detention houses

Detention houses have emerged on the local, national and, more recently, even the European level, attracting the attention of policymakers, researchers, practitioners and civil society.