Architect and BBU Founder Danna Walker presents The Architecture of Incarceration on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 broadcast the documentary, Architecture of Incarceration, on Thursday 23 August 2018, presented by south London based architect and founder of Built By Us (BBU), Danna Walker.


With Britain committed to building 10,000 new prison places in a £1.3 billion project announced in 2015, Architecture of Incarceration asks some searching questions about prison architecture and what we expect from the buildings that house almost 90,000 men and women convicted of criminal offences across England and Wales.


By most measures prisons are failing. Report after report damns poorly-designed prison buildings that are inadequate for rehabilitation. Around half of all people in prison will be reconvicted within twelve months of release, with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of between £10-15 billion each year.

Prison architecture is possibly the only area of architecture where the aim is not the aesthetics of place and space. A lack of innovation over many decades means that the go-to design for prisons dates from the eighteenth century.

New prisons like HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, opened in 2017, have some progressive architectural flourishes, but essentially follow the centuries-old blueprint of plain facades, punctuated by tiny windows. Yet the work that takes place inside prisons is of fundamental importance to the safety of our society.

Architect and social entrepreneur Danna Walker visits London's oldest jail, HMP Brixton, as well as the unusual setting of HMP Styal near Manchester, and questions the role of prisons and whether good design can drive better outcomes.

She also visits Halden Prison in Norway, built ten years ago and often cited as “the world’s most humane prison”, but, it is very expensive to run. Could we learn valuable lessons from its strikingly humane architecture as we embark on our own transformative prison building programme?

The Art of Now: Architecture of Incarceration is produced by the Prison Radio Association and was be broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Thursday 23 August 2018 at 11.30am. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer Radio App to hear on demand following the broadcast.


Built By Us is a not-for-profit social enterprise on a mission to diversify the construction sector. Its vision is that by 2030 BBU it will have played an active role in making the sector more inclusive and a better reflection of the society it serves. BBU does this by supporting diverse and talented individuals wishing to develop sustainable careers in the built environment and by supporting built environment businesses on their journey to become more inclusive workplaces.


The Prison Radio Association is a charity that specialises in creating media to transform lives and reduce crime. It runs National Prison Radio, the world’s first national radio station for prisoners. Available to more than 80,000 people across England and Wales via in-cell television, it has revolutionised the way we communicate in prisons. 86% of people in prison listen to National Prison Radio, and 45% listen every day. PRA Productions is the commercial arm of the charity. It creates audio, films and animations for a wide variety of clients, including the BBC. All profits go back into supporting their work in prisons.