How can architecture shape punishment?
Texas has 26 detention centers, 5 prisons, and 2 county jails used to detain migrants in connection with immigration proceedings or immigration-related crimes. The majority of these facilities have been built since 2005, when private prison corporations (building on post 9/11 immigration legislation) began heavily lobbying Congress. With more detention centers than any other state, Texas can imprison an estimated 34,767 migrants daily. Despite Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s mandate to “ensure the safety, privacy, and basic human rights of all detainees,” the architecture of detention tells a different story. The buildings’ geographic location, materials, and spatial organization, as well as migrants’ experiences detained, reveal how “administrative” detention punishes. Detention centers are located out of public view, and largely impervious to investigation—although taxpayers finance the buildings. This project unveils the architecture of detention and migrants’ experiences in detention centers by documenting where they are, what they are, and who they incarcerate.
Graduate students from the School of Architecture and the Humanities who have never experienced detention or international migration firsthand learned about the complexities of migrant detention and the injustices taking place in Texas by engaging in two main strategies. First, we mapped the physical locations, architectural forms, and building history of detention centers. Second, people who had been held in detention centers created visual stories of their migration journeys and experiences in detention. The above images represent just a small portion of the research conducted throughout the semester—the rest can be found as part of a nationally traveling exhibition coordinated by the The New School's Humanities Action Lab.