With its grassy fields, brightly colored walls, and wide open spaces, the Las Colinas Detention and Re-Entry Facility in San Diego County, California, looks more like a college campus than a jail for women. Communal buildings have large windows to allow in plenty of natural light, and designers have replaced stainless-steel furniture with items made from wood and softly colored plastic. Outside, walking paths guide inmates from one building to another, and the central quad lets inmates interact with each other.
For this particular jail, which in 2014 replaced a bleak and overcrowded facility built in the 1960s, the county and the designers looked to higher-education campuses for inspiration. It’s certainly a different way of thinking about adult correctional facilities. But with traditional designs heavily focused on punishment and failing to reduce the rate of recidivism, this new approach could be a model for the future.