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Physio social reform through restorative architecture: towards the design of a pre-release centre for female offenders in Durban.

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This dissertation has been conducted to investigate the need for prison environments to redefine reform through the introduction of post punishment prisons which cater beyond punishment and responds to user specific needs. This research will explore the interrelationship between architecture and its users, through behaviourism, restorative processes, and gender sensitive design approaches which could redefine the reform of female offenders as a holistic process. Past and current prison environments have been explored in this dissertation in order to motivate for a new post-punishment model which would focus on promoting reflection and initiate offender reintegration, in the hopes of closing the gap between incarceration and reform, and ultimately reducing the high rates of recidivism in South Africa. Using an exploratory study that fully relies on a qualitative constructivist methodology, allows the researcher to gather insightful information regarding the female offenders’ needs, their experiences within the prison environment as well as their current process for reform. This, along with the analysis of the existing literature, and various precedent studies, case studies and a series of in- depth interviews with staff officials from the Westville Female corrections centre and offender advocates from grass-roots NGO’s, established various themes which responded to the research concepts of gender sensitive architecture, restorative environments and post punishment reform. Furthermore, as a result of the findings from the fieldwork component, this research concludes that despite the Department of Correctional Services attempts to promote offender reform within current prison environments, the outdated prison models, along with the lack of understanding regarding the post punishment phases of reflection and reintegration, has resulted in the current prison environment not being conducive towards the holistic reform of offenders. This dissertation concludes that for prison environments to facilitate the holistic reform of offender must incorporate the tripartite solution of: 1. Gender sensitive architecture – responds to female offender needs. 2. Restorative environments: facilitates the processes of reflection and reintegration. 3. Post punishment reform – redefines reform so it is physio socially holistic.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.