National Institute of Corrections
You are not signed in! To post comments and participate in discussions you need to sign in or create a free account.
What should a women’s prison look like?
NIC News & Updates


What should a women's prison look like“Historically prison buildings have largely been designed for the majority male prisoner population. However, the growing understanding that women who offend are different from men − from their typical backgrounds and the nature of their offences, to their experience of abuse and their care-taking responsibilities is also leading architects and planners to consider how prison facilities might also be designed in a gender-sensitive manner.” This blog posting from Penal Reform International, “Minus the urinals and painted pink”? What should a women’s prison look like?, outlines several considerations that those responsible for the design and management of women’s facilities should take into account.

Highlights from the article include:

  • Women are relationship-driven. The facility design should provide opportunities for fostering positive relationships that support emotional healing and positive self-esteem – important for all but critical for prisoners with trauma histories. This can be achieved by developing smaller housing unit “clusters” within the building or by developing a campus setting with housing unit cottages that operate on a smaller scale.
  • Female prisons should consider allowing women who have just given birth to have their newborns with them for a period of time. Purpose-built, dedicated nursery programs that are separate from other housing units ensure protection of the children and support an appropriate routine (e.g. breastfeeding, nap-time and play time). Spain has created External Mother Units built within the community, to enable children under three years old to live with their incarcerated mothers in a non-prison environment.
  • Because females require health services more than males, adequate and appropriate health delivery spaces are required in women’s prisons (including readily available OB-GYN and prenatal care), and they should be in convenient proximity to the living units.
  • Extended family visits recognize the importance of maintaining family ties during incarceration. In Delaware, small hotel-like rooms are provided adjacent to the visiting areas where qualifying women are afforded the opportunity to have overnight visits from family members.

Access the full article


This announcement is available at NIC’s Gender-Responsive News for Women and Girls.  Feel free to forward to friends and colleagues.  Subscribe to the newsletter at

For additional resources on Justice-Involved Women go to NIC’s Women Offenders.

Posted Tue, Apr 12 2016 12:21 PM by Susan Powell


Be the first to comment on this article!
You must sign in or create an account to comment.
Brought to you by:
National Institute of Corrections
U.S. Dept. of Justice | 320 First Street | Washington, DC 20534 | 800.995.6423

This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.