Reimagining Rehabilitation for Post-Pandemic Prisons

Design innovation for citizenship challenges us to think about existing / emerging social contexts and behaviours in order to discover new scenarios or gaps in knowledge rather than necessarily seeking to solve problems.

Within our Stage 2 design brief we were asked to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into flux and what impacts are emerging for human and non-human actors.

Grappling with this brief I knew that I wanted to explore the future ‘no normal’ for citizens on the margins of UK society, leading to the main focus for my project – the UK Criminal Justice System (CJS).

The pandemic regime within the CJS has impacted on rehabilitation by putting people’s lives, sentences, education and recovery on hold, discriminating against people within prisons and their families. Through a speculative design lens I examined notions of ‘rehabilitation’ within the current system to create a series of speculative vignettes to help prompt critique and reflection for a post-pandemic world.

During my fieldwork I interviewed seven contacts working in, or adjacent to the CJS in Scotland and England. I then used affinity mapping to draw out themes and review my interview insights to support my speculative making.

Speculative making is an intuitive process that visually and physically ‘makes real’ complex ideas and concepts. I created my vignettes by gathering objects together to create a scene and then inhabited the scene – imagining myself as the person in the space and allowing me to play with a number of ideas.

The audience for the vignettes could be members of the public, people within the CJS as well as policy makers as they help to encourage discussion about possible futures.