ARCH Lecture: Deanna Van Buren

The reimagining of prisons and jails is a task in which the firm I co-founded with Kyle Rawlins is often asked to participate—and one that is a misguided use of our time and energy. In the last decade, books such as Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (The New Press, 2010) and social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have helped to raise the country’s consciousness around mass incarceration and push us into an age of criminal justice reform. Though our country still has the world’s highest incarceration rate, jail admission rates have dropped by 25 percent since 2008, and national prison admission rates have come down by 24 percent since 2006, according to the 2018 Vera Institute of Justice report “The New Dynamics of Mass Incarceration.”

With the movement toward decarceration set in motion, we will need to address a series of pressing issues, including the planning and building of infrastructure, such as housing, in underinvested communities to which citizens are returning; the need to cultivate restorative reinvestments in these communities; and the adaptive reuse of defunct and vacant criminal justice infrastructure in our city centers and rural lands.