A social building? Prison architecture and staff-prisoner relationships

K. A. Beijersbergen, A. J. E. Dirkzwager, P. H. van der Laan, P. Nieuwbeerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Relationships between correctional officers and prisoners are crucial to life in prison, and affect prison order and prisoners' well-being. Research on factors influencing staff-prisoner relationships is scarce and has not included the design of prison buildings. This study examined the association between prison architecture and prisoners' perceptions of their relationships with officers. Data were used from the Prison Project, a large-scale study in which 1,715 prisoners held in 117 units in 32 Dutch remand centers were surveyed. Multilevel analyses showed that prison layout was related to officer-prisoner relationships: Prisoners in panopticon layouts were less positive than prisoners in other layouts. In addition, prisoners housed in older units and in units with more double cells were less positive about officer-prisoner interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-874
Number of pages32
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • prison architecture
  • staff–prisoner relationships
  • prisoners’ perceptions
  • prison environment


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