From Burden to Resource
Behind the prison walls, inmates live as invisible members of society, detached from the normal routines and responsibilities of daily life. Coming from difficult backgrounds lacking security, structure and support, inmates have never really experienced any sense of ‘normality’ in their lives. Yet we expect them to adjust to a ‘normal’, crime-free life after having served their sentence. Norway is one country that has focused on rehabilitation within prison. Through a humane approach, the inmates are urged to use their time constructively by gaining an education or skill training in the numerous workshops found within the prison facilities. Workshops specializing in wood, metal, textile, ceramics and glass, just to mention a few, create a nationwide manufacturing network with a very unique production quality – an abundance of time. In order for inmates to become a resource to society after a served sentence, they have to fully succeed in leading a crime-free life after being released. Less re-offending means less crime. Creating a new life structure means also developing new thought patterns. Through my research I have come to find that despite the resources given to inmates, it is the ability to reflect on their own actions that determines whether or not they can stay away from crime. I am therefore designing a manual for furniture making within prison where the outcome is dependent on the choices, reflections, motivations and effort of the inmate making it. This is not a manual of instruction, or ‘how-to’s, but rather a framework of making, with parameters that require the maker to take a step back and reflect in order to move several steps forward in the making process. The final outcome of the manual is a rocking chair. I have made this choice because rocking chairs are, in my opinion, pieces of furniture created for relaxation, for time and for contemplation. By giving the inmate the freedom to choose and decide over each step within certain parameters, each rocking chair will be unique and have its own character, but if one looks closely, one will be able to recognize a common system within the production: the accumulation of reflected choices that lead to an end result. Through the approach of my proposal, production within prison will allow ‘time’ to become a tangible form of rehabilitation, enabling inmates to realize what skills and abilities they possess and can therefore contribute to society.