Author: Jane Phillips

Kentucky Center for Rehabilitation

Master Plan




Portrait of the people








Artist Statement

The state of Kentucky is predicted to run out of space in its prisons by the year 2019. The Kentucky State Reformatory stands as the second largest prison in the state, and it exists amidst Oldham County, the wealthiest county in the state of Kentucky and the 20th wealthiest county in the nation; the Kentucky State Reformatory is not comprised of people who share socioeconomic commonalities with the citizens of Oldham County. The issues with the Kentucky State Reformatory are representative of the issues with the U.S. prison system as a whole.

The prison system is centered on the act of dehumanizing rather than rehabilitating. Prison duplicate the motives of slavery in their exploitation of labor and their efforts to capture people deemed “undesirable.” Prisoners are objectified through a property-owner dynamic; they are paid little or nothing and are vastly isolated from their labor. The overcrowding, dirtiness, and absence of nutrition and fresh air in prisons leads to health issues among prisoners, and a lack of prison healthcare worsens such issues. Officials are frequently unable to protect prisoners from physical violence, and mental health issues are left ignored. In turn, prisoners are often unable to lead healthy lives following release from prison. Incarceration places extreme strain on the family structures and communities of the incarcerated, and this issue is made worse by restrictions placed on prisoner visiting time. Upon release, many prisoners struggle to find income and housing.

My vision of utopia obliterates the existing structures of the Kentucky State Reformatory, preserves the population, and transforms the land into a center for rehabilitation. Members of the utopia are treated as humans who are valuable to both the utopia and the outside community. Labor exists only as a necessary force in the upkeep of the utopia, and a majority of daily energy is invested in learning, restorative justice, and rehabilitation. The utopia is staffed by doctors, teachers, and therapists, rather than punishing figures. Physical and mental well-being is prioritized, and healthcare and living conditions have been altered accordingly. Community members are viewed as people who will soon re-enter society. Family call and visiting time is regular, unrestricted, and accommodating of a family’s needs; on-site housing is available for those visiting. Several regular bus routes run from the surrounding counties (Trimble, Jefferson, Shelby, and Henry County) to the rehabilitation center, picking up at county libraries and allowing those with limited transportation access to their loved one.

In terms of outreach, because the Kentucky Center for Rehabilitation serves as a model of what all prisons could become, the outreach is not contained to a particular area. The broadsides created for the utopia summarize the philosophy of the rehabilitation center with “rehabilitation not dehumanization” and mention the Kentucky Center for Rehabilitation so that people can find more information. The posters can be printed by anyone and hung anywhere.

The site features housing for community members, housing for friends and family, a transportation hub, an educative center, a therapeutic rehabilitation center, an outdoor leisure center, a healthcare facility, a gym, an arts center, a dining hall, a garden and monument to rehabilitation, and a walking installation and museum about the former grounds and issues with the U.S. prison system. Outsiders, including Oldham County residents provide funding for the utopia by paying to use the utopia’s facilities. Outsiders are allowed to enter the utopia only through the walking installation, titled “Barred”, to ensure they are aware of prison issues and the prison that formerly stood in place of the rehabilitation center. The installation is a path surrounded by 22,000 poles—one per person incarcerated in the state of Kentucky. The poles increase in density from the inside to the outside and go from light at the entrance to completely dark at the end of the pathway. As visitors look left and right, they can see poles continuing to multiply in the distance, until they reach a point so dense that they form a sort of wall. Though the viewer does not get an aerial view of the installation, the lengthy walk and repetition of poles leads the brain to imagine that the poles expand infinitely, drawing light to the extent of mass incarceration in Kentucky and the U.S. as a whole. A museum about the Kentucky State Reformatory and the U.S. prison system is at the end of the installation path.

Overall, I hope that my utopia serves as a model for how the U.S. prison system could be transformed into a system that values people and restores.

Kentucky State Reformatory → Kentucky Center for Rehabilitation


  • The Kentucky State Penitentiary is built (1879)
  • A flood damages the prison’s property, and Governor Albert Benjamin Chandler allows the Prison Industries Reorganization Administration to inspect the Penitentiary (1936)
  • A new Kentucky State Reformatory is built with surrounding farmland (1937-1939)
  • Inmates file a lawsuit against Kentucky state prisons claiming cruel and unusual punishment (1980)
  • The court creates a consent decree for the reformatory in order to correct some issues of the lawsuit (1981)
  • Judge Edward Johnstone rules that the Reformatory complied with the consent decree (1992)


Socioeconomic analysis

The Kentucky State Reformatory is located in Oldham County, Kentucky. It stands as Kentucky’s wealthiest county and the 20th wealthiest county in the U.S. It has the second highest percentage of college-educated residents in Kentucky and is known to have the best public school system in the state. The wealth and high population of educated people comes as a result of the popularity of summer homes east of Louisville; summer homes were converted into permanent, year-round communities. The average price of owner occupied residences in Oldham County stands at about $250,000. The median household income is about $85,452, and the average male income is 1.47 times the average female income. Persons in poverty make up 5.9% of the county’s population. The majority of working citizens commute to Louisville but live in Oldham county in order to avoid crime and benefit from the public school system.

The socioeconomic status of those in the Kentucky State Reformatory stands as a stark contrast to the surrounding area, and the city layout demonstrates this divide; the Board of Education sits just outside of the road to the prison, and a country club is just over a mile away. The Kentucky State Reformatory is not primarily comprised of Oldham County citizens, nor is it comprised of people who share the Oldham County education and socioeconomic status. As the Kentucky State Reformatory is the prison nearest to Louisville, the impacts of the prison are primarily experienced by citizens of Louisville. Low income neighborhoods are most affected by the issues of prisons, resulting in additional strain on familial connections, economic strain, elevated crime rates, mental health issues, and infectious diseases which can also impact socioeconomic status. These neighborhoods have an infection rate that reaches 90% in some instances, and infectious disease can lead to social isolation and huge limitations in work and housing. Statistics also show that young members of these communities have shorter life expectancies and are much more likely to contract infectious diseases themselves.

The Reformers


The U.S. prison system focuses on dehumanization rather than rehabilitation.

Prisoners, held captive in cells, relate to others through a property/owner dynamic; they are viewed as objects that perform free or incredibly cheap labor for the state and companies to make profit. Prisoners are wildly isolated from their labor, as they produce objects worth more than the labor they exert in production, are paid little to none, and are not creating products for themselves.

As the prison system disproportionately affects those with low socioeconomic status, many inmates are likely to have not had healthcare prior to incarceration. Overcrowding, dirtiness, and lack of nutrition and fresh air in combination with the lack of healthcare in prisons both leads to and perpetuates extreme health issues among prisoners, which also prevents prisoners from leading healthy lives upon release and leads to prisoner deaths. Mental health issues remain unattended to alongside physical health issues. Officials fail to protect prisoners from violence.

Incarceration of a family member can obliterate family structures, and mass incarceration can obliterate a community; this problem is furthered by restricted opportunities for visiting prisoners. Additionally, upon release, many incarcerated persons are unable to find a source of income and a place to stay, and this places a greater strain on both the person and their loved ones.

These are only a few of the issues with the U.S. prison system. Slavery was never abolished —only reformed—and prisons reproduce the same motives to exploit labor and capture “undesirable” people.


My society would serve as a strikingly different alternative to prison. It would be founded on the concepts that society members are human, valuable and meaningful to the community and the community that exists outside of my utopia. Community members would no longer be viewed as disposable and as property used to generate profit. Keeping these concepts in mind would obliterate the property/owner dynamic that existing prisons thrive on. Members would participate only in labor that is necessary for their daily functioning and the functioning of the society, such as cooking and upkeep of personal spaces. There would no longer be relationships on the basis of production and labor.

A majority of member energy would be invested in learning and rehabilitation. Members would have access to all the learning opportunities and resources to reform and learn how to better their functioning in society upon release. Staff would exist not as authoritative, punishing figures but as doctors, teachers, and therapists who are passionate about the rehabilitation of community members. Members would have an understanding of their wrongdoings and feel dedicated to the functioning of the society and the bettering of themselves and others; thus, authoritative and punishing figures would not be necessary, and members could hold each other accountable instead. Therapists could be utilized as conflict mediators in complex situations, and certain members could willingly be separated and have their daily life reorganized if discomforts arise at any moment.

Members would be viewed as people who would one day re-enter the outside society. Thus, the physical and mental well-being of members would be viewed as a priority and healthcare would be facilitated accordingly. Staff would strive to identify and treat the root of mental health issues within the community. Living conditions would be improved with spaciousness, cleanliness, proper nutrition, access to exercise, and access to lots of natural light and fresh air. Members would have their own personal and comfortable sleeping and bathing spaces, but they would not be confined to these spaces. As prison uniforms are worn involuntarily, are dehumanizing, destroy individuality, and are stigmatized, community members would be allowed to dress as they desire. Community members would be free to practice the religion of their choice if desired, and they would be equipped with the facilities to do so. Education on sex, protection, and consent would be facilitated so that community members could safely practice sex as long as it does not interfere with their rehabilitation process.

A focus would be placed on integration into society following rehabilitation; members would have opportunities to learn trades and receive an education. As the focus and reputation of the society is rehabilitation rather than punishment, and due to the aforementioned opportunities, members would likely have increased chances at employment upon release. In order to reduce the strain on a community member’s family lacking a member, family members would be allowed regular and unrestricted phone calls and visits. In order to accommodate family schedules and prevent overbooking and overworking of staff, community members would not all follow the same schedule. By making meal times occur at different times, in smaller groups, the cooking and cleaning associated with meals and taken on by community members would be less intensive. Community members would work in rotating groups to cook and maintain communal spaces.

Daily life:

To prevent too much monotony in daily life, activity structures could alternate every other or every few days. Daily life for community members would be primarily focused on rehabilitation, with therapy, restorative justice activities, and educative processes comprising a large chunk of the day. The learning of trades or education outside of rehabilitative education would make up the second largest time slot. Three meals would be served each day, also providing a break time between rehabilitative sessions, and set-up/clean up time would surround each meal. A certain amount of free time during the day would be allotted to leisurely activities and/or exercise. Family/friend visitation or communication would be allowed at a time that is most convenient for a member’s loved ones.

The Reformers

Problem: The U.S. prison system focuses on dehumanization rather than rehabilitation. Prisoners, held captive in cells, relate to others through a property/owner dynamic; they are viewed as objects that perform free or incredibly cheap labor for the state and companies to make profit. Prisoners are wildly isolated from their labor, as they produce objects worth more than the labor they…

Collaborative Community


My ideal family is comprised of artists of all types and all ages; any sort of artist—from musicians to painters to writers—is allowed to join as long as they can make a meaningful contribution. My family is utopian in its emphasis on community, collaboration, and inspiration. In order to make collaborative art that is deeply personal and of quality, contributors should have a close and healthy relationship even outside of art. Such relationships are fostered through the sharing of and bonding through household upkeep activities such as cooking, gardening, and cleaning, as well as shared family meals. Daily life consists of a shared routine among individuals; this routine features all-day time for creating, breaks for meal preparation and consumption, a presentation period to ensure all ideas of the day are heard by all, shared chore time, and rest. Artistic relationships are cultivated through constant art-making with family members. Members’ urges to work together, listen, and share ideas pave the way for an ideal creating space. Community members may work on projects independently but must share, visibly or audibly, concepts with others and must be open to inspiration from others. Though the family is devoted to community within the home, we are not opposed to outside input; we welcome inspiration from nature and from the surrounding people, and we hope to inspire them through our collaborative art synthesis.


What is your artistic medium?


What currently inspires you?


How well do you function in a group setting?


How do you see yourself being inspired by others?


How do you see yourself inspiring others?


Why do you want to join this family?



Floor one, 2018. Image by Visakha Jane Phillips.


Floor two, 2018. Image by Visakha Jane Phillips.

Floor three, 2018. Image by Visakha Jane Phillips.

Map, 2018. Image by Visakha Jane Phillips.


The first floor has walls made entirely of glass, and the layout is a completely open plan. A few tables are scattered in the room, with no assigned purpose. The room is left empty for family members to bring their own materials. Any family member is allowed to work in any space in the room, so as to allow for flexibility in intaking the art forms of others’ and there is no division between working spaces for the same reason. Walls are clear to allow outsiders to draw inspiration from the synthesis of arts on the interior and for family members to draw inspiration from the outside and surrounding nature. The first level doors are always open. The second floor serves as a functional space, including a bathroom, laundry room, storage room, and dining room/kitchen. The dining room and kitchen occupy the same room so that there is no division between those tasked with cooking for the day and those waiting for food. There is plenty of space for all to bond through contribution to cooking and the cleaning that follows. The third floor includes beds for every member of the family, as well as a social area. Part of the experience of bonding and immersion in peer influence is in the space meant for rest. The home would lie in an urban area to maximize inspiration by and to outside sources. However, two sides of the house would be bordered by a garden to allow inspiration by nature.