Breaking Circles

Sunniva storlykken helland, University of Bergen, Faculty of Fine art, music and design

The project ‘Breaking Circles’ is matriculated in the field of social design – an area within the design field that has renewed itself in recent years. Social design is user oriented towards vulnerable and exposed groups within society.

Serving a sentence in prison is often associated with a range of penalties. Norway has only one penalty; denial of freedom. The inmates have the same rights as the rest of society, and are supposed to take part of it. The Norwegian Correctional Service’s unofficial slogan reads: ‘better out, than in’ meaning that rehabilitation overcomes penalty. The inmates have both the right and a duty to work, getting educated or attending amendment programs. The goal of their work is to qualify for working life after prison.

Having to go to prison will without a doubt be a personal crisis for anyone, and can lead to loss of jobs, housing, personal economy and social network. Inmates could benefit from building professional networks to avoid seeking out old acquaintances in criminal networks after prison, heading into criminal relapse. Having worked with design projects in the western region of the Norwegian Correctional Service, I have seen the vast areas and systems within prisons and the service that are untouched by design strategy. Design has considerable potential to help inmates benefit from their surrounding systems, both within prison and outside. I aim to use social design to ease inmate’s transitions to becoming potential employees through their work within prison.

To be able to do that, there are several problem areas to address: the content of inmate’s work in prison, inmate’s tools of sentence progress, barriers between prison and society and the lack of established professional networks to prevent criminal networks taking over after serving.

Using graphic design and visual communication in social design can contribute to a dawning interest in design and creative practice to prevent recidivistic crime and social marginalization. With a strong emphasis on design experiments through field work in a real-life context, I hope that the knowledge production through this design research can be of value for the design field.