The terraced house as prison

Maarten Moonens conducted research into whether it is possible for prisoners to spend their detention period in a homely, urban context. The design follows the principles of the Belgian Prison Act of 2005 (de Basiswet) which states that a custodial sentence should not impair normal opportunities for development and social contact. It is based on the vision of detention formulated by the League for Human Rights (2011) and develops a central aspect of this vision.



According to the Belgian Prison Act of 2005, the essence of a prison sentence is deprivation of freedom. The act stipulates that any accompanying humiliation and indirect damage should be avoided at all costs. What’s more, the law states that imprisonment is only meaningful if placed within the context of humane detention that is focused on reintegrating prisoners back into society. The regimes in contemporary Belgian prisons do not live up to this ideal. Massive prison complexes based on control and security do not comply with the provisions of this act. This fact is borne out by the high rate of recidivism and increasing aggression within prisons.


New key concepts focus on a small-scale, personal and differentiated approach. In 2011, the League for Human Rights published a vision document on ‘differentiated execution of sentences’, developed and published under the title ‘De Huizen’ (The Houses) (2013). In this vision document, Hans Claus, director of the prison in Oudenaarde, drew up a new detention model, together with criminologists, lawyers, architects, academics and the League for Human Rights. The model consists of various small-scale detention centres that allow for differentiation with regard to security, how the detention is organised, and counselling.


The present design study affirms the vision document on differentiated stays in detention. An alternative type of detention has been developed in a normal terraced house in a normal urban environment. The detention house is a link in a chain of facilities that have as yet to be developed.




See pdf, for complete study



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