Feature, Residential

Can LEDs reduce prison violence?

Can lighting be used to reduce violence and improve behaviour in our prison system?

Can lighting affect the behaviour of prison inmates? That’s one of the intriguing questions that will be discussed at a special webinar on the subject of prison lighting hosted by Lux Review.

There’s anecdotal evidence that lighting can affect mood in prisons. For instance, research into the effect of lighting on the behaviour of inmates commissioned by UK prison operator Serco and conducted at its private HM Prison Ashfield in Gloucestershire, appeared to show a link.

When the lighting was upgraded to LED, there appeared to be a change in the behaviour of inmates. First and foremost, the excess levels of light pollution into the cells by the security lights that surrounded the prison was eliminated. When the interior lights in the cells was changed, it was noticed that  the inmates’ attempts to modify the output of the lights reduced significantly. There were less DIY diffusers and paper shades being fitted and little or no or crayoning over the fittings, a common occurrence. But crucially, there was evidence that there had been a reduction in the level of vandalism and anti-social behaviour. While the research was inconclusive – it was difficult to establish a direct link between the installation of new lighting in the cells at the prison and a drop in aggression and vandalism that occurred at the same time – the work at the institution (now a Category C location for adult sex offenders) proved so worthwhile that it has paved the way for a more extensive study.

Altering human behaviour using LED lighting will be one of the many issues discussed in a special ‘Best practice in lighting for prisons’, next in the Lux webinar series, to be broadcast on Wednesday 8 June at 1pm BST 

Speakers include Steve Fotios, head the Lighting Research Group at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, who will join Lux to discuss how light and human behaviour are inter-connected – and the perils of jumping to inappropriate conclusions.