The Latest In Prison Education? Design Thinking
The MakeRight initiative teaches incarcerated people empathetic design with the aim of reducing recidivism.
From packaging that prevents shoplifting to furniture that guards against thieves, projects originating from the Design Against Crime Research Center (DACRC)—a program at Central Saint Martins in London—offer clever design ideas to protect against crime. Its latest project has grander ambitions: change the way offenders think, and perhaps curb law breaking as a byproduct.
The DACRC’s MakeRight initiative teaches prisoners design thinking. While many prison programs teach technical skills—and, historically, have exploited incarcerated individuals for labor—MakeRight is meant to yield empathy through design.
Design thinking is a process that involves defining a problem, researching and observing behavior, coming up with multiple solutions, refining the solutions, choosing a winner, prototyping the idea, and implementing it. While critical thinking breaks down ideas, design thinking builds them up and benefits from having as many diverse solutions as possible.
In one of its first projects—run in collaboration with the National Institute of Design, a school in India—25 prisoners designed theft-proof bags, wallets, briefcases, and purses. They shared some of the (terrifying) tricks of their trade, like slashing back pockets so wallets slide right out, to inform the design of better products—in that case, a wallet with a thicker side so it catches on the pocket and doesn’t fall out.