Bethany Moy



Humanizing Prison
Architecture in America

An Overview

A printed pamphlet and interactive tablet piece that explore the relationship between recidivism and prison architecture through a comparison of American and Norwegian prisons.


Information Design, Print, & Interaction


Research, Illustration, Visual Design, & Prototyping


Illustrator, Sketch, & Flinto


September - December 2016 (3 months)

Being sent to prison has nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals.

Arne Wilson, Bastoy Prison Governor in Norway
The Problem

Overcrowding in U.S. Prisons

Overcrowding in American prisons has become a prominent issue that has consequentially developed from America’s high incarceration and recidivism rates. However current solutions being implemented to address these problems are ultimately unsustainable as they involve either building more prisons or adding more inmates to already overcapacitated prisons.

Starting Point

Norway as a Model

The project initially started from a video I saw on my Facebook feed, showing the stark differences between a typical American prison in contrast to Halden prison in Norway. I was in disbelief as to how such a luxurious prison could be possibly effective, but discovered that the Norwegian prison model, a system based off rehabilitating inmates, has a much lower recidivism and higher rehabilitation rate than American prisons do.

Knut Egil Wang, The New York Times
Initial Research

Choosing a Model

Based off these findings, I started to research into other prison models and discovered that Nordic prisons, in general, share similar statistics and values as the Norwegian prisons. Nordic prisons have been such a success that they have reached the point where the lack of inmates has caused prisons to close down. Rather than creating my own prison model or a new system based off the Norwegian model, I chose a real life success model to convince prison administrators that the Norwegian system could act as a plausible solution.


Architecture as a Solution

Although there are many factors that differ between American and Norwegian prisons, the prison environment is the biggest difference between the two. Based on this insight, I focused my research on prison architecture, narrowing the structure down into the two key areas inmates spend the majority of their time: the cell and the yard. From there, I broke each structure down in order to understand the key influencing areas, noting the problematic structures within American prisons and the rehabilitating structures in the Norwegian ones — structures that could possibly call forth a solution.


Forming the Narrative Through a Print & Interactive Piece

In order to advocate to administration divisions in American prisons, I chose a printed pamphlet and tablet piece to convey the information. The print piece gives users to view a quick overview of the information, whereas the tablet piece allows users to go through the information more in-depth. Both pieces follow a similar format, telling the story in a narrative broken into four parts:

1. Introduction: Brief overview on how architectural design choices may influence inmates' behaviours following their release.

2. Opening: Highlights the overcrowding and recidivism problem in America.

3. Comparison: Presents the Norwegian prison model as the solution to rebase the American model on through a comparison of prison statistics.

4. Solution: Shows the differences between American and Norwegian prison design while showcasing the amount and type of influence design elements have on recidivism and rehabilitation. This section is meant to encourage administrators to choose elements within the Norwegian example to create or modify their own custom prison spaces within their budget ranges.


Initial Sketches — Making the Data Meaningful

Through my initial sketches, I explored possible charts and diagrams to format the datasets in easily digestible ways. Since the entire piece highlights the key differences through comparison data, I explored different data visualization sets and layouts to maximize effective communication. Through this process I was able to eliminate ineffective and confusing charts and clearly juxtapose the American and Norwegian models.


Previous Iterations

This stage allowed me to develop the ideas explored in the sketches to figure out what parts of the design were working and what were not. Through multiple critiques and feedback, I learned how even the simplest visual element can connote different or multiple meanings in a single dataset — meanings that I do not intend to convey.

The Pamphlet


22 x 36 inches (unfolded)
8 x 11 inches (folded)



The printed pamphlet itself acted as a refined frame for me to base my tablet piece on. I wanted the information to flow in a similar way and I didn’t want the differences between the two to be so drastic that the two did not correlate with one another, so I played with ways that I could expand on the information that I had to sacrifice in the pamphlet piece due to the lack of space. Although the tablet is much smaller than the pamphlet since I had to contain the content in single screens, easy and intuitive user interactions to hide and reveal information was a key factor in the designing process.

The Tablet

Other Work

Hard Candy

Editorial & Art Direction

Smart Fridge

Mobile App, Product Design