How to design a city that is secure, honest and equitable.
What does justice mean to you?
Design prerequisites for justice
How Edenicity reduces crime
The Norway model
Why Norway succeeds
Corrections in Norway
Edenicity justice system
Police in Edenicity
▲What does justice mean to you?
Think about that for a moment. Think big picture. You'll probably end up making a list. Now distill it down. Can you get it down to a simple statement?
Alright, I admit I cheated! I looked it up in Wikipedia, which basically boiled justice down to just four words:
"Getting what you deserve."
What do you think of that definition? Kind of brilliant, right? Because it covers a lot of philosophical ground: morality, ethics, fairness, law. For some, it even involves religion and environmental concerns.
But I also found this definition chilling. There's way too many people online shouting angrily about what they or other people deserve. The problem is, they don't agree at all. They want to win and they want each other to lose. They can't all be right, can they? I mean, if everyone screaming on Facebook actually had their way, they all end up rich --and dead!
When it comes to the environment, the idea that justice is all about getting what you deserve just smacks of comeuppance. Hurricanes droughts, wildfires, locust plagues, famine: that's what we get, based on our bad choices as a species.
So for today, let's step back from the edge and consider what justice might mean from a design perspective. Because design is the opposite of comeuppance.
Design is not about what we deserve. It's about what we want.
So what do we want in the realm of justice? And how would that translate into the structures and institutions of a city?
▲ INTRO [music]
Cities designed like modern Edens, for economic and ecological abundance. Because sustainability is not a matter of political will, it's a problem of design. I'm Kev Polk your guide to Edenicity.
Welcome to Episode 26, where I'll discuss the Edenicity of justice.
▲Design prerequisites for justice
Recall from Episode Five that design embodies intention. It seems to me, then, that justice boils down to three broad design intentions: security, truth, and equity.
By security, I mean basically protection from harm. If someone is trying to hurt you, a just society will prioritize your life and well-being above your attacker's freedom. That's why we have jails and prisons. Also in a just society, it should be hard to cheat or steal from one another, or keep stealing after one is caught.
Now as I mentioned in Episode 20, without truth, there can be no justice. So our next design intention is to strive for ever greater truth; otherwise innocents are bound to suffer.
So we must be data driven. And this means accurate forensics, and of course, the presumption of innocence. But there is such a thing as bad data, which is why we need constant improvement.
For example, in 1975, People Magazine and 60 minutes interviewed criminologist Robert Martinson, who summarized his review of 231 studies of prisoner rehabilitation with the phrase "nothing works," and this created instant political momentum that killed rehabilitation efforts in prison systems throughout the United States. As a result, US prisons increased their focus on incapacitation, deterrence and retribution, which means punishment instead of rehabilitation.
But according to corrections administrator Jerome G. Miller, writing in 1989, Martinson was actually a late comer to the study, and he wasn't even the first author. It was actually led by Lipton. So the Lipton study involved many programs, according to Miller, that existed in name only. A further review of the data showed that outcomes depended a lot on the quality, intensity and appropriateness of rehabilitation work. Lots of things work, as we'll see.
So the lesson here is that it's important to critically and soberly assess the data and test assumptions along the way.
Okay, so much for truth.
Our third design intent is equity, which I define as fairness, plus discernment. The idea behind equity is that we're going to right the wrongs of disorder and order.
Here's an example. If 70% of young men in a certain neighborhood are getting convicted, a systems approach demands that we look at conditions in that neighborhood. Continuing the arrests and punishments may be fair in a legal sense, but doing so lacks discernment, therefore it lacks equity, and therefore it lacks justice.
The orderly structure of that neighborhood has done those men and their families and injustice. So it must be replaced with better design. In redesigning that environment, we need to focus on restitution, empathy, and empowerment.
Restitution, where possible, undoes the harms of the past.
Empathy is appropriate for grief, forgiveness and healing, so that people can move forward with their lives.
And empowerment is necessary so that we don't waste talent any more than we already have. And so that people don't have to tear each other down to feel powerful.
So once again, the drivers of our designs will be security, truth and equity.
▲How Edenicity reduces crime
Let's look at the details of how Edenicity in the design that I've already described in the previous 25 episodes would significantly reduce crime.
You can think of crime as a triangle that includes motive, target, and opportunity. Edenicity decreases the motive by having a low cost of living, free health, education, transportation, and even a universal basic income, which greatly reduce the financial incentives for crime. Basically, there are no have nots in Edenicity.
Edenicity addresses the second leg of the crime triangle by reducing the number of targets. And the way that it does that is by creating more social capital. Short commutes and cafe culture give people more time with people who they know well.
As I mentioned in episode nine, long commutes come at the expense of family time, which leads to isolated youth, gangs, drugs and other risky behavior. Edenicity cuts the longest commute times by 90% or more, and provides many jobs within walking distance. So you're around people who know you more of the time.
Edenicity even removes many of the opportunities for brushes with the law. There are no cars in Edenicity. So that means half as many scrapes with the law. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 57% of police contacts with the public in 2015 were car-related. And in addition, 3% of crimes were car theft. So Edenicity removes 60% of the opportunities that we have in our current society to break the law.
Okay, we're done right? Not quite. Our need for security means there will still be jails. And our need for truth means critically examining how prisons are run.
Now I've designed Edenicity to be as culturally and administratively neutral as possible so that it could be built anywhere in the world. But in the case of jails and prisons, not all cultures and administrations are equal.
▲The Norway model
In his movie "Where to Invade Next," Michael Moore took us on a tour of United States prisons, and compared them to the prisons of Norway.
Norway has a 91% lower incarceration rate than the United States: 60 prisoners per 100,000 people versus 655 per hundred thousand in the United States. Norway also has a 90% lower murder rate than the US, although its overall crime statistics are comparable. Strangely enough, Norway has only slightly fewer police officers than the United States: 188 versus 238 per hundred thousand. So what really sets it apart as a low crime society is the effectiveness of its prison system. Recidivism is very low in Norway: 20% of released prisoners commit another crime, versus 76.6% for the United States, according to Business Insider (see program notes for the link).
▲Why Norway succeeds
Now the question is, why has Norway succeeded where the United States failed? Hint: design!
Everything about the Norwegian prisons is structured around the intention of restoration rather than punishment. Prisoners go to prison with all of their civil rights intact, except for the right to freedom of movement. Unlike in the United States, they're allowed to vote, for example. And when they're released, there's little to no stigma attached to them. So it's easy for them to find a home and to find a job. Unlike in the United States, where having a criminal record is a serious impediment to having any kind of a life at all.
The goal of the Norwegian prison system, according to Business Insider, is to take people who've made mistakes, and help them become better neighbors.
When Christina Sterbenz, author of Incarceration Nations, visited Norway's prisons, she often couldn't tell whether the person she was talking to was an inmate or a staff member. This blurred the line between self and other; a theme I hope to return to in depth long after Edenicity sets the tone for city design.
Because the design of Norwegian prisons is built around the intention of restoration, the facilities themselves are high quality. Inmates get private cells and private visitation areas. They have a quality commons, including high quality gyms, gardens, libraries, and even kitchens where they can cook their own food with sharp implements unsupervised.
Now, as you can imagine, this requires a very highly trained and skilled staff that's very well supported in order to be effective. According to Sterbenz, the prison staff undergoes two years of training in "criminology law, welfare, applied ethics and social work." And the pay and benefits must be very competitive, because when she visited, there were 1300 people interviewing for 175 slots.
▲Corrections in Norway
Okay, let's get into the detailed design from the prisoner's point of view. And note, this really interesting coincidence: Norway has a population of 5.4 million people, which is exactly the same as the Edenicity Reference Design, which you can download from the program notes. When someone is convicted of a crime in Norway, they face either a penalty in society or a penalty in prison.
Each year there's 2500 people who are sentenced to 30 to 70 hours of community service, plus whatever welfare assistance they need, such as mental health, counseling, addiction recovery or jobs programs.
An additional 3,190 inmates are sentenced to penalties in prison each year. There are 43 prisons with 13 to 400 inmates each plus about 11 transitional facilities such as halfway houses for when they get out. The average sentence is eight months. The maximum is 21 years; they do not have a death penalty.
Typically, prisoners are approved for weekend parole after serving one third of their sentence, and many qualify for early release after two thirds of their sentence.
Now I got online and took a look at a video on LifeInNorway.com that was a prison intake video intended for new incarcerees. Despite the rosy picture that I painted, the intake is actually quite similar to what it is in many areas of the United States. The first month, they have very little contact with the outside world, they're basically making lists of contacts, and those are screened and approved for visits. The first week or two, they have very little contact with the other inmates and then they're eventually moved to a population where they can interact more with people. So in many ways, it's very similar to systems throughout the world, at least on the way in.
However, it is clear that they take very seriously the work of the welfare officer who visits in the first couple of days and stays in touch with the prisoner throughout their sentence. This person's role is to help them become that better neighbor and find those opportunities when they leave so that they don't come back. Clearly the design of Norway's prisons reflects a focus on equity, which includes restitution, empathy, and empowering prisoners for a more productive life at the end of their sentence.
▲Edenicity justice system
So with these lessons in mind, let's return to Edenicity. And look at how we might design its justice system.
First of all, as with any modern society, Edenicity would respect constitutional human rights and offer strong protections for property rights and contract enforcement.
But when you get into the details of governance, there is the opportunity that I outlined in Episode 18 to structure the government around circle meetings, starting at the block level on up to the villages towns all the way up to the city. This would provide a very lean, nimble and responsive government.
That said, there are two elements that I would hardwire in at the city level.
The first would be much more intensive tax enforcement than is common in the United States today. This would be necessary because of the progressive tax structure that I outlined in Episode 25.
The second would be much more stringent regulation of chemicals and species introductions, including genetically modified organisms, into the environment using the Precautionary Principle. Now, the Precautionary Principle is: if it hasn't been tested, it's not allowed. This is basically the Napoleonic code. The idea is, if it's not authorized for use, it is automatically illegal. So this is a really sharp departure from how things are done in the United States. But I believe it is necessary if we want to even slow the environmental harms that we've caused so far, and even begin to slow the extinctions that were causing now.
Finally, because we value security, Edenicity would definitely have prisons. And these would be built as much as possible along the Norwegian model, which involves lots of small facilities.
How many are we talking about? I don't know. I could believe any number from virtually none to the same number as Norway: 4,000 cells.
So to avoid the possibility of overcrowding, which could be catastrophic, I'd say build all 4,000 private cells, but make them dual use. To keep things at a human scale, I would group them in blocks of five cells around common suites.
Now because most of these might not end up ever being used as prison cells, I believe they should be dual use. For example, if not needed for incarceration blocks can be sealed off for use as secure guest quarters for visiting dignitaries. This would support Norway's model of normalization, meaning that jails should be as much like the outside as possible. The blocks and suites would be built to function as international four star hotels.
Each of the 92 towns in the reference design would have eight blocks of five cells. These could occupy four floors of a single building with a rooftop garden, a library, a kitchen and a cafe. If I had to guess I'd say that under normal conditions, towns might keep one block of rooms active as a jail and use the remaining seven for hospitality.
The city center would have 64 blocks in several mid rise buildings, some of which could be dedicated to special needs. That's 320 individual cells. Compare that to Changi prison in Singapore, which is meant to house 11,000 people in a single high rise, and keep in mind that Singapore's population is almost identical to the Edenicity Reference Design.
Since typically no more than 7% of criminals are female, a total of 56 out of the city's 800 cell blocks would be designated female only.
And all of the city's jails would be designed as much as possible to blend in with the surrounding architecture, complete with rooftop gardens and ground floor cafes. In other words, following the Norwegian lead, they would be made to be as much like the outside world as possible, so that the transition at the end of somebody's incarceration goes as smoothly as possible.
▲Police in Edenicity
Now, what about the police force in Edenicity? For this discussion, you're going to need the Reference Design from the program notes. And the way I see it, there would be about 10 officers per village or town center, with two on duty at any time covering 25 blocks with a population of 6,000. There would be 734 officers in City Center with 127 on duty at any given time, covering a population of 400,000. This would give us for the city a total of 9,180 officers with 1,589 on duty at any time across the city.
Now, I know that seems like not very many officers, but it's actually almost identical to the police force in Singapore. And it's only slightly smaller than the number of officers you'll find in Norway, or in similar sized cities in the United States. These would be well compensated, highly trained officers. Their training would emphasize medical triage, cultural sensitivity and de-escalation, as well as problem- and community- based policing.
I'm actually fairly familiar with these from an orientation I had In the police department as part of the Bloomington Indiana Citizens Academy many years ago. The police officers took great pride in being able to, for example, identify when somebody might be off of their meds and having a psychotic or paranoid episode, and be able to bring in medical personnel rather than escalating it into a violent confrontation.
Maintaining this standard of service is integral to our commitment to truth and equity in the city's design.
Also, part of the equity element would be the fact that police would live in the neighborhoods where they work.
Now let's look at their response time, which could easily be two minutes or less, given the design that I've just described, especially if the police are able to get around by electric bike.
Another thing that might surprise Americans is that they would be unarmed on patrol, as police are in Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland), and this would be driven by our design commitment to security. Police in many nations have actually pushed for not being armed, as going around with a gun tends to escalate situations.
And finally, when officers do need backup, this would be available via loop transit, and electric bicycle and runabout from the city center in five minutes or less.
So let's return to our original Wikipedia definition of justice. And I want to reiterate that no design can guarantee that everyone gets all that they deserve, because I don't think we'll ever all agree on what that is. But in this episode, I hope I've shown how we can design cities with justice systems that embody a great deal more security, equity and commitment to ever more truth than we do now.
And remember, designing for justice begins not with courts and jails, but with lower costs of living, a greatly expanded Commons, increased social capital, a universal basic income, and most of all, ending the mass extinction and reversing climate change, so everybody can enjoy a long and prosperous future in this world.
If you enjoyed Episode 26, Please let your friends know about it. And leave a review in Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast player.
Be sure to join me next time when I'll discuss how design can help end racism and how Edenicity provides a unique win/win opportunity to make reparations for slavery.
I'm Kev Polk and this has been Edenicity.