Arrested Development

Instead of putting people under house arrest – where they'd stay at home all day, unable to leave their own property for weeks or months at a time – you instead send them out to some perfect suburb in the middle of, say, Nebraska or Utah, a remote development where each house is fully furnished and tastefully maintained, but each also has only one inhabitant: a minor criminal of some sort, dwelling on the immorality of shoplifting or tax fraud and serving-out a short period of house arrest. They can even get their mail redirected there, and watch Netflix.
But out on the far periphery are watchtowers, and the streets are lined with cameras.

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Blogger Keith said...

A perfect use for those far-flung suburbs around metropolitan areas as well. In Seattle, the powers that be are considering constructing a new jail along an arterial that links many several desirable neighborhoods. The area is currently grossly underutilized and could likely flourish with smart development (which isn't happening now, partially thanks to Whole Foods pulling out of an extremely suburban urban infill development); a jail doesn't seem to be the right kind of anchor for land in such a valuable location...

January 05, 2009 3:17 AM  
Blogger Dittman said...

Not to geek out on everyone, but that sounds an awful lot like the hell suburb in the American TV show Angel's 5th season. Terrifying.

January 05, 2009 8:08 AM  
Blogger Lissy said...

Suburbs already produce a jail-like anxiety in thinking inhabitants, so this seems like a natural extension of an inherent quality.

January 05, 2009 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a tactic employed by several authoritatian governments in the early 20th Century - Italian political prisoners were sent to tiny no-horse towns in the South so that they might be bored into submitting to the Fascist state.

January 05, 2009 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reminds me of the UK drama Cape Wrath, the housing scheme where its is set comes across as really quite sinister.

January 05, 2009 9:20 AM  
Blogger The City Desk said...

You know, this might be a good use for those increasingly empty, largely forclosed suburban developments in California and Florida.

January 05, 2009 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really weird, but each time I look at this picture I see grave crosses instead of mailboxes.

January 05, 2009 11:45 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

"gated community"

January 05, 2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger RadamR said...

I think it's fascinating how the suburbs have taken on this carceral image. The WSJ had an interesting article a couple weeks back about Hollywood's maligned view of the suburbs. I don't wholly agree with the piece (it gets a little ham-handed with assumptions about "liberal artists"), but I think it, like this little post, bring up great questions.

For instance, why do we see the suburbs as prisons or cultural wastelands or as centers for cookie-cutter conformity? These are spaces that were designed, planned and built by humans. Is it just that they are so universally detested?

January 05, 2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Sylvain, that's a very visually intense mistake! I'm imagining whole streets of tombs – but each tomb is an uninhabited McMansion...

The graveyards of tomorrow.

January 05, 2009 11:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

The thing is, these suburbs are full of people, many of whom sought the suburbs out. They are not universally detested. They are detested by people who self-select out of them.

This idea is just the flip side of Escape from New York. The urban environment is ascendant at the moment, but we'll see where we are in twenty or thirty years.

January 06, 2009 12:58 PM  
Blogger Waiting4Arson said...

Reminds me a bit of the opening scene of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. Hell, or at least purgatory, is portrayed as a grey, boring, community of people who almost, not quite get along. Heaven, by contrast, is park-like, with too-real grass and too-bright sun for the spiritually-degrade souls taking a day trip there by bus.

January 06, 2009 4:44 PM  
Blogger RadamR said...


I don't know if I agree with the notion that suburban life is simply a matter of opting in or out of a chosen lifestyle. There are many determinants that relate to where peeps do their living. You'll also find a good amount of self-loathing among suburbanites re: their own living situation. What I'm most concerned with are the wholesale, essentialist notions of the 'burbs.

I also don't agree with the wait and see argument, but that's for most things. The urban has been ascending for centuries. Now we see that the urban image is being challenged. As metropolises expand, I would say that the suburbs are just as much a part of the urban image. It's not about gridded streets and population density anymore.

January 07, 2009 11:02 AM  
Blogger Toure Zeigler said...

I dont know this seems like a bad idea, grouping a bunch of people who have been caught trying to get over on people or who have weak morality seems like its bound to cause even more trouble.

January 07, 2009 9:01 PM  
Blogger Grumpy said...

I agree with BC Planning.

Years ago, living in Deep Ellum in Dallas Texas, I spent several months befriending a homeless man who went by the name Chicago. He grew up in Cabrini Greens.

In his seventeenth year his mother woke him up one morning, gave him 500 dollars and told him to take the soonest Amtrak Train or Greyhound bus out of town. Between the ages of 14 and 17 most of childhood friends had been murdered in one fashion or another.

He used my phone to call his mother. She still lived in Chicago, but she had gotted away from the projects. He always told me that putting criminals and poor people in the same place would never make wealthy productive citizens. It was something to take note of that his mother would rather her only child be homeless than living in the projects of Chicago.

Not that my anectodal story makes a 1:1 analog, but still, putting criminals all in one place does not make the world a better place all of a sudden.

January 07, 2009 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grumpy - there was a fascinating article (I think in the NYT) where a researcher documenting crime patterns noticed that when famillies left urban public housing, they took their crime with them, increasing the crime rates in the suburban areas to which they settled. He studied this in a really micro kind of way. What was really ironic was that the researcher's wife worked for a non-profit to do precisely that - get people out of public housing into the suburbs.

January 09, 2009 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really intrigued by everyone who's linking this to a book or tv show, incredible (and scary) that we already have a vocabulary for this type of space. In my mind it sounds like that alien city described in L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time".

However, isn't the whole point of house arrest to keep one close to family and not cost the gov't lots of money?

January 10, 2009 7:27 PM  

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