News Analysis

Rethinking the Architecture of a Racist Legal System

With the conversation on race and justice coming to the forefront, it’s worth thinking through how architecture can contribute to change.

The first time I visited a prison, as I was walking out of the last of many claustrophobia-inducing checkpoints, I watched a monarch butterfly glide through the razor-wire fencing to the outside. It hit me hard that none of the incarcerated people inside would be slipping out so easily. The harsh design of the facility also stuck with me—an uninhabitable rat maze of concrete and steel. Yet hundreds of men did inhabit this space. And most of them were Black or Latino.

It is not news that our legal system is racist. Minorities are more likely to be arrested for misdemeanors, according to research done in New York City. Black people are more likely to be prosecuted. Police killings disproportionately affect people of color. Black people receive more severe sentences.

Published August 3, 2020

Melton, P. (2020, July 28). Rethinking the Architecture of a Racist Legal System. Retrieved from