When I was in Philadelphia I visited the Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison in Reading (Berkshire) was built around similar times by Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott. When opened in 1844, it was conceived as a model prison, constructed with a central monitoring point and three corridors with three stories of cells spreading out from the centre.
Rather than forcing prisoners to share cramped dormitories, they each got a clean cell in which they could contemplate their crimes, seek penance and be released as reformed characters.
Reading Goal has been extended over the years and most recently was a Young Offender’s Institution. It closed in 2013 and stood empty for the next three years. I was able to visit and explore it after ArtAngel took over the prison for two months in 2016.
In my opinion, the architecture is a work of art in itself, vaulted ceilings, wrought iron railings and precise brickwork.
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