You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

PROJECT: Reform Of The Prison System In The UK

Penal progress:

The UK's large prison population is fuelled by a high level of recidivism - when criminals repeatedly relapse into crime. This project for a model prison tackles issues of architecture, management and funding in an enlightened attempt to achieve lasting rehabilitation.


The penal system is one of the most direct manifestations of the power of the state, but is often also a revealing reflection of the national psyche and the public's attitude to punishment and rehabilitation. Surprisingly, for a prosperous, progressive Western democracy, the UK has a lamentable penal record. Britain's prison population is currently in excess of 60,000 (up 50 per cent from a decade ago) making it the second largest in Europe. The average cost of keeping an individual prisoner incarcerated for a year is £27,000 (ten times the average expenditure on a secondary school pupil in the state sector). Despite such substantial investment, over half of British prisoners re-offend within two years of release.

Such high rates of recidivism is a serious problem. It means that the prison population is continuing to grow at an alarming rate (recently by as many as 700 a week), so overcrowding is endemic, hampering opportunities for education and rehabilitation and lowering staff and prisoner morale. To ease this pressure, the UK government is investing in the prison estate at historic levels, with 12,000 new prison places proposed within the next few years. Yet, like their nineteenth-century predecessors, Britain's 'new Victorian' prisons are designed for security and control rather than for the rehabilitation and education which is increasingly recognised as what prisoners need. Most are poorly educated young men under 30 (at least 60 per cent of whom are functionally illiterate and innumerate), so without education and skills few will be able to build meaningful lives away from crime, no matter how often they go to prison, or how long they spend there.

Any transformation of the penal system must start with the redesign of prison buildings. Prison architecture has a clearly discernible effect on behaviour, operational efficiency, interaction and morale. Last year, architects Buschow Henley were commissioned by a think tank organisation working with the Home Office Prison Service to research and develop an alternative prison model that focuses more intensely on rehabilitation through a concentrated programme of intellectual, physical and social education. The model is not intended as a blueprint but rather a series of principles that might be adapted to support the wider concept of the 'Learning Prison' in which other aspects such as organisation, management and funding would obviously play a part. Key to this is the introduction of a system that groups together prisoners in small communities or 'houses' of between 30 and 40 inmates. This has two important consequences. First, the more compact spatial organisation of the house reduces staff time spent on supervising and escorting prisoners. Second, the system places educational and other facilities at the heart of the building, within easy reach at all times of day, reinforced by a supportive social environment. This model also enables resources to be dramatically redeployed, from a current estimated ratio of 80:20 (costs of security versus rehabilitation) to a predicted reversed figure of 20:80, freeing up much-needed funds to invest in educational programmes, thereby helping to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism and initiate a virtuous cycle.

In Buschow Henley's scheme, the proposed group size of 30-40 has the potential for social accountability - each prisoner being known within the community and personally accountable for his behaviour. Houses are semi-autonomous, not just dormitories, with communal, as opposed to centralised, facilities. Circulation is simplified and reduced. Buildings are arranged in a chess-board formation, as opposed to pavilions marooned in space, each with a discrete external area that can be productively used for sport, games or gardening with a minimum of supervision.

Individual cells are replanned to make them less like domestic lavatories and more conducive to learning. In an inversion of the conventional layout, the bed is placed lengthways along the external wall at high level, freeing up space below. Storage is built in and each inmate is provided with a moveable table equipped with electronic tools for study. Washing facilities are contained in a small adjoining space (included in the basic 8 sqm allowance) so reducing pressure on prison staff to manage inmate hygiene and ablution. Each cell is paired with a neighbouring 'buddy' cell linked by sliding doors controlled by individual prisoners to mitigate the risk of self-harm.

While this new type of prison appears to be somewhat liberal, the arrangement of spaces and functions both inside and out is actually tightly controlled. Paradoxically, however, this proscription enables a greater range of activities to take place, and makes general supervision easier. In this environment the prisoners are judged not by their degree of conformity, but by the scope of their activities and achievements, so laying the foundations for genuine rehabilitation. As Martin Narey, Director General of the UK Prison Services observes, 'We have got to accept that prison must be a humane and constructive place, not least because all but 23 of my population are going home some day.

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