Surveillance through Architecture: Cuba's Abandoned Panopticon Prison

Illustration for article titled Surveillance through Architecture: Cubas Abandoned Panopticon Prison

In 1926, Cuba saw the construction of the Presidio Modelo, a prison based on the Panopticon building design. The idea was that a guard could stand in the central tower and watch all of the prisoners in the surrounding cells.


Top image by Friman via Wikimedia Commons.

Presidio Modelo was built under the administration of Gerardo Machado and consisted of five cylindrical cell blocks. It was inspired by the Panopticon institutional buildings conceived by social theorist Jeremy Bentham, although it was extremely difficult for prisons of the time to fulfill all the goals of the Panopticon, namely that while the prisoners could be watched at all times, the prisoners themselves could not see their custodians and thus did not know when they were under surveillance. Presidio Modelo was still in use under Fidel Castro, and became severely overcrowded within a few years of Castro's revolution, and, despite the surveillance model, was the site of multiple riots. In 1967, the Cuban government shut down the prison, which now stands as a monument and a museum.


You can see more photos of the prison on imgur.

Presidio Modelo a panopticon prison built on Isla de la Juventud in Cuba [r/AbandonedPorn via Nerdcore]

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And now, with electronic surveillance and drone technology being what it is, every prisoner everywhere can function under the notion that they are probably being watched at all times, regardless of the design of their prison.

Come to think of it, most people, period, can probably make that assumption. And you used to have to be certifiably paranoid for something like that. Oh, these crazy times we live in today.