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The U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world's population yet incarcerates almost 25% of its prisoners. That means about 1 in every 4 incarcerated people worldwide are locked up in the “Land of the Free.” The role of governance, policy, and space is clear when viewed through the lens of incarceration. The built environment plays a key part in enforcing these systems of oppression, and the entire building industry has benefited from the dramatic rise in incarceration rates caused by Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill, written by Joe Biden.


Black men have about a 1 in 3 chance of being incarcerated at some point in their life, whereas White men have about a 1 in 17 chance. While drug use across White and Black people in the United States is the same, drug arrests of Black people far surpass the arrests of White people.


So not only does the U.S. have a mass incarceration problem, it has a hyperincarceration problem, incarcerating Black people at disproportionately high rates. Through our research we have begun to better understand that this incarceration epidemic is a reflection of a looping system with roots in slavery, racial terror, and Jim Crow. As Michelle Alexander explains, “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

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PLAN - Hennepin County Adult Corrections
ELEVATION SECTION - Hennepin County Adul

Top: Plan of the Hennepin County Jail

Top Right: Elevation of the Hennepin County Jail 

Right: Plan of the St Cloud Minnesota Correctional Facility

Bottom: Elevation of the St Cloud Minnesota Correctional Facility

The Hennepin County Jail occupies space in both the Public Safety Facility (330 beds) and the Minneapolis City Hall (509 beds) in downtown Minneapolis.  Anyone arrested and held in Minneapolis begins their journey through the criminal justice system here.  They are held until their conviction or sign a plea deal and are either freed or enter the Minnesota Corrections system, or the Minnesota prison system.

Any person who is entering the state prison system in Minnesota, including those from the Hennepin County Jail, begin their time at the St Cloud Minnesota Correctional Facility. St Cloud is the admitting facility for the Minnesota Department of Corrections and all male inmates are first transported to St Cloud to be assessed before being transported to a permanent facility elsewhere in the state for long-term containment.



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Historically, health outcomes and risks have been believed to be determined primarily by pre-determined characteristics such as genetics but advancements in research on the social determinants of health have proven that health is widely determined and influenced by factors such as stress, socioeconomic status, social gradient, social support or exclusion, and access to resources like money and transportation. Social determinants of health are defined as "the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life." Access to resources such as money, education, social connections, and power over one's life are directly linked to exposure to health risk and the capacity to prevent negative outcomes during a health crisis. As is evident within this project, the lack of investment, reduction in access to resources, and historic and continued discrimination against BIPOC communities is directly linked to their health outcomes and length of life.



The Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis has historically been the healthcare hub of the city, starting in the late 19th century when its adjacency to the mills made it a primary location for healthcare services. At its peak in the 1950s, the neighborhood was home to five healthcare institutions and additional medical facilities. As many of those institutions evolved over time, Hennepin County Medical Center continued to grow and is now a major medical campus. Although originally in the heart of the city and easily accessible from most Minneapolis neighborhoods, Elliot Park and HCMC are now isolated in the downtown island via surrounding highway infrastructure. Before the highways were constructed, HCMC was branching out with facilities in the Phillips Neighborhood, with organizations such as the Lymanhurst School and the Sister Kenny Institute. The construction of the interstate system severed Elliot Park and its healthcare resources from its surrounding communities. 



The Trudeau School, located in the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood, was part of a public health initiative during the outbreak of tuberculosis in Minneapolis in the 19th and 20th centuries. This school was specifically founded for children at risk for developing tuberculosis and operated until 1938, when Lymanhurst School was opened in the Phillips neighborhood. In addition to schools, Minneapolis built sanatoriums to treat tuberculosis patients and house their family members who were temporarily lacking a primary care taker. Trudeau is an example of using historic analysis to represent how Minneapolis reacted to pandemics in the past in order to understand how the city can address outbreaks in the present and future. 



It’s clear that COVID-19 has made visible many inequities in our society today. It is also evident that pandemics, particularly due to a globalized world, are incredibly spatial. We are interested in understanding the impacts of COVID-19 through the lens of our project due to its connection with our other topics and because it has fundamentally changed our education and how we have approached our work.

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Urban Determinants is a group Master's Final Project for the Master of Architecture Program at the University of Minnesota designed by

Ashleigh Grizzell, Erin Kindell, MacKenzie Kusler and Adam Rosenthal and advised by Vahan Misakyan.