Let’s Put A Hackerspace In Prison

The Hack42 Hackerspace in Arnhem, Netherlands is one of the best hackerspaces we’ve ever seen. After taking over a decommissioned military base, the Hack42 crew has filled a compound rimmed with razor wire with eclectic gizmos, tools, and a community that keeps growing the space. At this year’s EMF camp, Hack42 member [jos] laid out his plan to found the ultimate Hackerspace. He’s going to put a hackerspace in prison to create the ultimate hacker village, a monument to technomancy, and an anti-panopticon panopticon.

[jos] recently noticed a very large, very old prison — currently used to house refugees — went up for sale. This prison, located in downtown Arnhem, Netherlands is a panopticon, a concept for prisons popularized in the 1800s, with most designs based on a circular structure with prison cells along the diameter around the circumference and a guard house in the center. This gigantic building is 55 meters (180 feet) in diameter, and 46 meters (150 feet) tall at its highest point. This gigantic prison dome could contain the White House inside its walls, a few blue whales, and could almost fit a space shuttle stack under the dome (the orbiter itself would fit just fine if there were a door).

The ambitious vision for this prison-come-hackerspace is a permanent venue not unlike other hackercamps where hackers can stay for weeks or months to build a project, a venue for like-minded people to meet up, and a place for students to do graduation projects under the wings of academic leadership. A community is one thing, but this former prison would also be the largest hackerspace by enclosed volume, opening it up to some very cool, very large builds. Inter-office quadcopter mail was mentioned in the talk.

[jos] is looking for comments, ideas, and remarks via this Google form to, “convince the money-people to fork over the funds.” If you’ve ever wanted to contribute to something big, this is your chance.

26 thoughts on “Let’s Put A Hackerspace In Prison

  1. Isn’t this a bridge too far?

    I thought this was about a real prison, ie one with prisoners. I bet the authorities would love that. On the other hand, I gather prisoners cn be quite resourceful, improvising and making do with available materials. Not just making rubber rafts from raincoats and guns out of soap (with shoe polish to color it) for escape, but everyday things for heating water or whatever. “One Day in the Life of Ian Denisovitch” goes into fair detail about making a spoon, for himself but then for others as a way of making money.


    1. I’ll second this – you can find any number of recipes (figurative and literal) for everything from toilet wine to toothpaste-adhesives in prisons. Given the realities of confinement, regimented living and limited physical resources nothing but “hacking” (improvised solutions) will emerge.

    2. “Isn’t this a bridge too far?”

      ‘A bridge too far’ is the title of a 70’s book/movie about the battle for Arnhem in World war II. Arnhem is the location of this Hackerspace.

    3. Hey any place where you can learn to make a tattoo machine, toilet wine and a shiv is a hacker space, just one where you can get raped in the shower or killed for looking at someone funny, so you know like a hacker space in Detroit.

  2. I’m sure I can’t be the only one thinking this could be the first hackspace to build a full size GLaDOS replica. If the centre of the dome could support the weight. She’d be about three stories tall.

  3. This is the stuff of which hollywood movies are made… “MacGuyver Goes To Jail” anyone?

    But seriously, this is a great idea which has the potential to be greatly beneficial to society. Of course, that would require proper funding and management, something which we seem woefully incapable of here in the USA, but which should be quite doable in most of Europe, at least. I hope something (good) comes of this!

    1. Reality TV. They lock up 100 hackers. They all escape. The last or those who fail are out of the competition. Every time they get out they are put in a higher security facility. Call it training camp :D

  4. Seriously though, people have escaped with bits of old radio and curry powder. Necessity is the mother of invention. As nice an idea it is, it would probably be deemed to much of a security concern.
    I’m all for reforming over incarceration but it’s all relative, depending on not just the crime but the mentality of the individual. Sometimes it take a lot of self control.

    1. I agree. . . but. . . those inmates will be re-entering the workplace when they get released. Without job skills, they are far more likely to re-offend. We need the hackerspaces both in and out.

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