Patricia Green | The culture of smart cities and prisons
At Emancipation in 1834, the Caymanas Estate in St Catherine comprised three separate parcels - Ellis Caymanas, Taylor Caymanas, Ewing Caymanas – records B. W. Higman in ‘Jamaica Surveyed’. By 1885, Caymanas had 6,000 parent titles for Bernard Lodge, Innswood Estate, and Hartlands, all featuring in the media under stewardship of the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH). Where is the briefing from SCJH and the National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA) promised in the September 5 Cabinet Statement from Minister of Information Robert Nesta Morgan concerning divestment of Innswood Estate lands?
In The Gleaner article of February 16, ‘Bernard Lodge pitched as green, tech-savvy town of the future,’ the SCJH elaborates: “… all developers are required to bear in mind smart technology, smart development guidelines …”. My commentary of June 27, 2021, ‘An environment vision: Kingston (un)fulfilling smart cities’, gave a definition of smart cities. One critical strategy of smart cities development is to attract an industry that would attract population and help financing. Zhengzhou, Central China, a city with a population of 10 million, has smart systems to help planners in urban management and safety. Yet one of the technologies for a real-time flood prevention failed in July after record rainstorms, resulting, sadly, in fatalities. One key industry attached to Zhengzhou is the Foxconn iPhone factory, employing more than 200,000 workers, producing an average of 500,000 iPhones per day, about 70 per cent globally. BBC News reports on October 30: ‘Apple: Chinese workers flee COVID lockdown at iPhone factory’ reports that workers are allegedly filmed escaping from the grounds, fleeing from being locked inside the factory under China’s strict zero-COVID policy because of a factory COVID outbreak.
For Jamaica, what are the investment industries that are being attracted to the old Caymanas Estate lands to enable the establishment of anticipated smart cities? What incentives are being offered to investors and developers that necessitate displacement of farmers and communities from existing agricultural lands and ancestral claims? What is the implication of a ‘$30-billion prison on table’ in The Gleaner of November 22 regarding an “… unsolicited bid from a prominent Jamaican developer …” being given 300 acres of land in Hartlands to erect a prison accommodating up to 3,500 inmates on 100 acres and the remaining 200 acres for skills training, farming, and subsistence? At Hartlands, are there infrastructure site investigations and analyses for the proposed prison?
Importantly, Higman writes that the historic Caymanas Estate lands are “… all located on the marshy coastal plain four miles east of Spanish Town …”. Green Acres is also attached to the Caymanas Estate parent title. The Jamaica Observer of November 24 reports, ‘Chang defends decision to build Green Acres Police Station’, stating that the community “… had decided on the greenfield site …”. The question was asked as to who the technical experts on this project authorising construction without mitigation interventions inside a potential flood environment were?
This Green Acres scenario was averted for two separate two-storey buildings valued at $350 million for the Little London Police Station and the Frome Police Station. The Gleaner of October 21 reads, ‘Construction of new multimillion-dollar police facilities halted in Westmoreland’ stating that they “… have gone back to the drawing board …”. A water-logging issue surfaced at the construction site. These police stations were being built. There were groundbreaking ceremonies.
Engineer Wayne Reid on TVJ All Angles ‘Roads in Jamaica’ on November 23 made a plea that essential technical investigations and analyses should be undertaken prior to and during the design stages, including during the construction process. There are some cost implications associated with these activities he highlighted, however, where governmental entities omit them from the project cost, the burden is transferred to the citizens, who suffer inconvenience and pay onerous repair bills. Additionally, engineer Dr Carlton Hay emphasised the need for experienced technical personnel, especially during the site-supervision stages. The same applies for architecture projects that seem to omit essential pre-design investigations prior to construction.
I posit that the design criteria of a modern prison facility are akin to the process and development of a smart city. Let us draw parallels with the iPhone factory. Both require maximum security, state-of-the-art technology, amenities, green sustainability, etc. In fact, during its current COVID lockdown, this Chinese factory appeared to have become a sort of holding area, a place from which persons were, seemingly, escaping.
Here are some global comparisons showing prison-construction costing along with capacity, recognising that in temperate climates, there would be additional cost for mechanical heating and that in Jamaica, any smart prison would require mechanical-cooling integration: (1) Utah, USA: ABC4 News, June 23, ‘Lawmakers Open New Utah State Prison,’ US$1.05 billion (Ja$161.8-billion) for 3,600-bed complex of 35 buildings, 1.35 million square feet of operational space, spanning 172 acres; (2) The Philippines Star, November 11, ‘P4 billion needed to build ‘supermax’ prison – Remulla,’ Pesos 4 billion (Ja$10.9 billion) for 2,000 maximum-security prison; (3) Australia: ABC News, Coffs Coast July 2, 2021, ‘Clarence Correctional Centre, Australia’s largest prison, marks first year of operation.’ Au$700-million (Ja$73 billion) 1,700 inmates, public-private partnership; (4) Leicestershire, UK: BBC News, September 2, 2020, ‘Glen Parva prison: Cost climbs by £116m,’ £286 million (Ja$53.3 billion) it will hold 1,680 adults; (5) Canada: Global Construction Review, April 4, ‘EllisDon closes $1.2bn deal for new prison in Thunder Bay,’ CAN$1.2-billion (Ja$138.7-billion), new 345-bed facility to be completed in 2026. Malaysia questions the need to build a 3,000 bed facility in the Borneo Post Online, June 21, ‘Experts: Building Malaysia’s ‘largest’ prison won’t address overcrowding, crime.’
The former Myrtle Bank Hotel was adjacent to the Rae Town General Penitentiary and the Bellevue Hospital mental facility. These were all deliberately placed along the Kingston coastline so that their guests/inmates could enjoy the salubrious sea breezes and benefit from comfort and rehabilitation. The prisons in Kingston and Spanish Town are important historic landmarks. As a conservation architect, I call for their restoration versus any proposed demolition. In Hong Kong, the former prison, built in 1860, was restored into a successful adaptive reuse complex for enterprises in the city after it was decommissioned in 2006.
Where is the study determining a 3,600 prison? In the debate over extension of states of emergency, where are the discussions to rehabilitate housing stock in marginalised urban communities and offer house ownership? Examples of this practice reducing crime abound internationally. ‘Changes in crime surrounding an urban home renovation and rebuild programme,’ in ‘Urban Studies’ April 2021 reports, “… this initiative to repair, rebuild, and increase ownership of housing has the potential to reduce crime rates for neighbours …”. Jamaica’s marginalised communities need regeneration, including housing ownership, to reduce crime and prison numbers.
Patricia Green, PhD, a registered architect and conservationist, is an independent scholar and advocate for the built and natural environment. Send feedback to email@example.com.