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Building Environments for Success with Prison Architect Sarah Paddick

Updated: May 21

Prisons, as Sarah Paddock so poignantly points out, are often designed with punishment in mind. This outdated model focuses on control and restriction, ultimately leading to environments less likely to foster rehabilitation. Could similar principles be at play in our businesses? It's time for leaders to reimagine their workplaces, building environments where individuals can not only function but thrive.


In the latest episode of The Huddle Leadership Podcast, Sarah speaks candidly about her experiences designing spaces no one wants to be in. Her remarkable journey in prison design began with a challenge: a lack of familiarity with the unique needs of this environment. Yet, instead of being deterred, she rose to the occasion, approaching her task with thoughtfulness and innovation. For leaders, a similar mindset is key. Obstacles will always arise, but approaching them as opportunities for creative problem-solving and adaptation can set you apart.


Listen to this fascinating episode between Sarah and Kate and hear a rarely heard take on architecture, wellbeing and business. Topics b Including:

  • Challenging traditional notions of punishment

  • The power of lived experience and asking curious questions

  • Designing environments for well-being

  • Societal responsibility regarding incarceration

  • Rehabilitation and second chances after time behind bars


A critical lesson Sarah learned is the profound value of consulting those with lived experiences – in her case, the residents of the facilities she designed. Their insights revealed simple, yet essential needs that architects might otherwise never consider. As leaders, how actively do we seek feedback from the diverse individuals within our organisations? Building trust and empowering stakeholders to share their experiences directly can lead to breakthroughs in product design, processes, and culture.


The prisons Sarah designs aim to reduce harm, incorporate elements of beauty, and prioritise factors like acoustics and even small choices for the residents. What kind of environments do we build in our businesses? Prioritising well-being isn't merely a feel-good gesture; it's intrinsically linked to productivity, innovation, and the ability to attract and retain top talent. Investing in spaces and policies that nurture psychological safety builds the foundation for an exceptional employee experience.


This fascinating conversation challenges us to consider the societal factors that contribute to incarceration, and the responsibility we have as a community toward rehabilitation. Leaders, though not directly responsible for the justice system, can play a role in driving a more inclusive, equitable society. Whether it's through inclusive hiring practices, community partnerships, or advocacy, leaders have a sphere of influence to extend beyond the bottom line.


Sarah speaks passionately about true leadership that doesn't begin and end within our businesses; it ripples outward. Are we creating an environment where people can truly thrive and contribute, regardless of background or past circumstance? This forward-thinking approach is not only humane; it's essential in building a better future for all.

Download The Huddle Leadership Podcast and this episode, and a brand new episode every Monday! Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! 




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