Working With Prisoners to Design Furniture for Prison Cells

0 Posted by - May 25, 2007 - Blog

Artist Peggy Diggs became fascinated with disaster. In particular, the kinds of social and economic disaster predicted in a report by the US Defense Department that was leaked and written about in The Observer International in 2004 — sinking cities, huge populations of homeless civilians, and refugee camps to accommodate them. Diggs began to think about living in small spaces. Her thinking lead her to prisoners, a population who aready have knowledge about living in tight places, something the rest of us can learn from.

She began working with 15 men in a maximum security facility in Philedelphia…

Twice weekly for two months she met with the prisoners to learn about how they lived and what it would take to make prison cells more habitable. Their solutions tended toward compact, flexible furniture. Diggs and the men made rough models with cardboard and masking tape and then worked with an industrial designer to work out design components like usefulness, functionality, efficiency, aesthetics and materials, and to compare the designs to similar items already on the market.

Through the prison art program, three objects of cell furniture were created: a table/cube that could hold a variety of materials and perform many functions(see photo), a multifunctional bed unit, and a portable cupboard that could hang from a bunk bed.

One of Diggs goals was to create products that the prisoners could market and sell.

The read more about Peggy Diggs' work with the prisoners check out Lynda Frye Burnam's excellent article at communityartsnetwork.

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