US Architects join movement against capital punishment and torture

Capital Punishmentsource: Human Rights Watch
published: 14 December 2020

As the administration of US President Donald Trump rushed to carry out more federal executions before the end of its term than any administration in decades, the movements against capital punishment and torture, including prolonged solitary confinement, received a boost last week from an unlikely source: architects.

On December 11, the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) adopted a revision to its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit members from “knowingly designing spaces intended for execution and torture, including indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact, for more than 15 consecutive days.”

The AIA is a voluntary member organization so this does not necessarily apply to all architects, but it is a meaningful step toward acknowledging that the death penalty and prolonged solitary confinement violate human rights.

The AIA’s code of ethics already included a rule that “[m]embers should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors” but the AIA had long resisted calls from Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) and others to conclude that designing for death and torture constitutes a violation of that directive.

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