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Alumna Jana Belack Awarded 2017 Ames Scholarship

A study of the state of women's prisons in the United States compared to women's prisons in other parts of the world earned Jana Belack, BDS '10, M.Arch '16, The Boston Architectural College's (BAC) 2017 John Worthington Ames Scholarship. The annual scholarship provides one recipient with $10,000 toward travel to further personal development through an educational experience related to architecture and design.

Jana's scholarship application focused on a project she explored extensively for her master's thesis: the design and architecture of women's prisons in the United States versus those around the world, and their physical and mental effects on prisoners.

Her research is eye opening: Prisons in the United States have more than 215,000 female inmates (the vast majority of whom are nonviolent offenders), more than half of the next closest country, China, which has around 105,000. When it comes to recidivism, or the percentage of female inmates who end up back in jail within 5 years of their release, the United States is at a staggering 76%, the highest rate of repeat offenders in the world. Norway, by comparison, has the lowest rate at 20%.

So what are foreign prisons doing differently than the United States? They use their prisons as ways to rehabilitate their inmates in a humane environment to prepare them for reintegrating into a rapidly changing society upon their release. With her Ames Scholarship money, Jana is traveling to Scandinavia in June and July to see firsthand what their prison environments are like. She has already made contact with the administrations of prisons in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and they have welcomed her and invited her for tours of their facilities.

Jana's thesis project and Ames Scholarship travel and research are a passion project, one that she hopes will be used to invoke changes in the United States.

Jana's hope is to create a publication that includes her findings and research from Scandinavian prisons and compare their designs against the United States' prisons. She wants to further explore the history of how US prisons have evolved versus how Scandinavia's prisons have evolved as they are far more successful and progressive in their rehabilitation of inmates, the most successful incarceration system in the world.

Ultimately, Jana would love to work with individual prisons around the United States and help design and implement changes that would benefit the health and rehabilitation of inmates. She wants to volunteer in prisons, possibly teaching GED classes. With her design experience and research findings, Jana hopes to teach a lecture/design workshop course at the BAC. The lecture would include the history of the design of prisons around the world, while the design workshop would let students imagine and design their own prisons with improved conditions.

Click here to view Jana's Presentation

About the John Worthington Ames Scholarship

Awarded annually, the John Worthington Ames Scholarship was established in 1955 by Mrs. John Worthington Ames in memory of her husband, a distinguished Boston architect and dedicated supporter of the BAC. The John Worthington Ames Scholarship is to be used to further personal development through an educational experience related to architecture and design in accordance with a stated and accepted program. The Ames Committee defines "educational experience" as one that would develop mental, artistic, or cultural capacities.