Using shipping containers to house prisoners: green or inhumane?

Shipping containers have become a hot form of prefabricated building material: they’re cheap, plentiful, and ready for retrofitting. Their modular nature provides lots of opportunities for creativity, and architects have used them for both homes and larger buildings.

All of these reasons have played into Adelaide, Australia’s decision to experiment with shipping containers as prison cells. But a number of state legislators and activists are crying foul, claiming that the plan is inhumane. Civil libertarian George Mancini told The Advertiser that he sees the plan as representative of short-term thinking on corrections: “I would have thought the future of prisons involves the rehabilitation of prisoners… There needs to be a focus on rehabilitation and reasonable conditions, not just cheap housing but effective housing.”

The concept is much cheaper than traditional cells, however: shipping container cells would cost $70-80,000 (Australian) to create, as opposed to half a million for conventional cells. They could also go up much faster: in six months compared to two years. And Adelaide’s government isn’t the first to put forth this idea: New Zealand’s Rimutaka prison started using shipping containers for both cells and showers in 2009. The cells themselves are heated and insulated… prisoners aren’t just being thrown into bare containers.

What do you think? An affordable way to reuse available materials? Or a little too spartan even for prisoners?

via Inhabitat


Photo: Thousands of shipping containers at New Jersey’s Port Elizabeth terminal Source: Wikimedia Commons