Jersey City, NJ – November 2018

Silling Architects once again sent representatives to the AIA Academy for Justice Architectural (AAJ) Conference held this year in Jersey City, New Jersey. The AAJ Conference promotes and fosters the exchange of information and knowledge between members, professional organizations, and the public for high-quality planning, design, and delivery of justice architecture. The event’s highly collaborative seminars and workshops provided proven strategies and the latest trends in the design and construction of courthouses, correctional and detention centers, and law enforcement facilities.

This year’s conference builds on the momentum of previous years as we continue to challenge the status quo and discuss holistic approaches to addressing people with mental health illnesses in our justice system. The conference plenaries and panels brought together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to discuss their experiences within the justice system and how we can learn from and apply those experiences to transform the built and social environment. The conference grouped panels by themes; case studies, faces of justice, and evidence based approaches, instead of traditional building typologies within the Justice market. The AAJ’s goal in selecting presentations was to deliver a conference that addressed mental health in our justice system through a wide lens. The track chairs led a number of sessions that aligned to their areas of expertise, as well as topics they were passionate about.

We heard from many distinguished speakers over the course of the conference including the opening plenary speaker, Judge Lerner-Wren, who passionately advocates for diversionary strategies and decriminalizing mental illness. They had an exciting day of concurrent panel sessions scheduled for Thursday culminating in an afternoon plenary discussion lead by Khalil Cumberbatch where we heard about his experiences with justice policy reform, as well as the re-entry support services provided by the Fortune Society. On Friday, we collectively experienced several panel discussions
including sessions led by Cheryl Roberts, the Executive Director of The Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, a focus on mass incarceration and how the built environment effects the detainee’s experience, the future of Rikers Island, and a forward looking discussion between Academy of Architecture for Justice and Healthcare peers. We then traveled as a group to Brooklyn to tour the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the Kings County Supreme and Family Courthouse. The Sustainable Justice workshop focusing on best practice guidelines impacting Mental Health was held on Saturday at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan.