Over the past twenty years, significant strides have been made to prioritize consideration of specific environmental qualities in the design of detention and correctional settings. Research has demonstrated more and more the importance of the application of these features, including access to natural light, access to nature, acoustical control, color schemes, and many others. The correlation between exposure to these qualities and physiological and psychological outcomes has been demonstrated to work in both directions: exposure to the above elements provides positive health benefits, and a lack of exposure to these elements can lead to negative consequences. In this episode we’ll discuss the myriad environmental interventions architects and designers are implementing to improve correctional environments.


Jay Farbstein


Jay has more than 30 years of professional experience and is nationally recognized for his contributions in the areas of justice facility planning and programming, with particular focus on corrections and courts. He was lead author of “Correctional Facility Planning and Design” published by Van Nostrand Reinhold. Jay has led projects for clients including the National Institute of Corrections and many federal, state and local jurisdictions nationwide. Jay is a registered architect in California and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects where he founded and co-chairs the Academy of Architecture for Justice’s research program which has led the way in fostering evidence-based design for justice facilities. Jay earned a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of London.

As a principal of Gould Evans, Melissa jointly leads the Phoenix studio with a focus on the ways in which architecture impacts people. She is well known in the profession for her passion: quantifying and applying the behavioral and physiological impacts of architecture to environments resulting in measurable outcomes. Melissa was one of the principal investigators on a National Institute of Corrections funded study to examine impacts of views of nature on stress in a jail intake area.  She was co-chair for the National AIA’s Academy of Justice for Architecture (AAJ) Research Committee for ten years and past Chair of the AAJ Leadership Group, steering the 2018 AAJ annual conference – Enlighted Justice| Advancing Treatment – focused on mental health in the justice system to address the larger systemic issues of mental health in communities.  

In an effort to create positive impact, much of Melissa’s work has focused on social justice and public projects of all sizes. She has contributed to many publications and gives frequent presentations on evidence-based design applications. She has embraced her 30+ year career as a mission to improve people’s daily lives, spirits, and well-being, particularly when it comes to complex justice, education, and health projects.

Additional Information

Melissa Farling


Consent Decree: A consent decree is an agreement or settlement that resolves a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt (in a criminal case) or liability (in a civil case), and most often refers to such a type of settlement in the United States.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA): The purpose of the Prison Rape Elimination Act is to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in federal, state, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003.)

National Institute of Corrections’ Jail Design Guide

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Resources:

ADA Standards for Accessible Design: The Department of Justice’s revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) were published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. These regulations adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, “2010 Standards.” On March 15, 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards was required for new construction and alterations under Titles II and III. March 15, 2012, is also the compliance date for using the 2010 Standards for program accessibility and barrier removal.

Title II: Title II applies to State and local government entities, and, in subtitle A, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by State and local government entities. Title II extends the prohibition on discrimination established by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794, to all activities of State and local governments regardless of whether these entities receive Federal financial assistance.

Building Code Resources:

California Building Code (CBC): The CALIFORNIA BUILDING STANDARDS CODE (CALIFORNIA CODE OF REGULATIONS, TITLE 24) is a compilation of three types of building standards from three different origins:

  • Building standards that have been adopted by state agencies without change from building standards contained in national model codes;
  • Building standards that have been adopted and adapted from national model codes to address California’s ever-changing conditions; and
  • Building standards, authorized by the California legislature, that constitute amendments not covered by national model codes, that have been created and adopted to address particular California concerns.

All occupancies in California are subject to national model codes adopted into Title 24, and occupancies are further subject to amendments adopted by state agencies and ordinances implemented by local jurisdictions’ governing bodies.  

CBC Chapter 12 – Interior Environment

I-3 Occupancy: “Institutional Group I-3 occupancy shall include buildings and structures that are inhabited by more than five persons who are under restraint or security. A Group I-3 facility is occupied by persons who are generally incapable of self-preservation due to security measures not under the occupants’ control. This group shall include, but not be limited to, the following: Correctional centers, Detention centers, Jails, Prerelease centers, Prisons, Reformatories…”

Legal Precedents referenced in this episode:

Armstrong v. Davis: ADA

Coleman v. Brown: Medical/Mental Health

Perez v. Tilson: Dental Care

Plata v. Schwarzenegger: Overcrowding/Medical/Specialized Care

Mays v. County of Sacramento: Conditions/Medical/Mental Health/ADA/Covid/HIPAA

Johnson v. Los Angeles County: Mobility impairments

United States v. County of L.A./Sheriff: Cruel and unusual punishment, medical/Mental Health care

U.S. v. Columbus Consolidated City/County Government: Crowding, dental, medical, Mental Health care, suicide prevention

Nunez and United States v. City of New York: Cruel and unusual punishment, Mental Health care

Spicer v. Williamson: “In Spicer v. Williamson, a physician sought recovery from the board of county commissioners for professional services rendered to a prisoner in the custody of the sheriff of the county in question…”

Estelle v. Gamble: “According to the Supreme Court of the United States, the general rule was that deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and gave rise to a civil rights cause of action…”

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