In a new survey published this month in 'Paint and Paste' magazine there is much criticism directed at the design of many American police stations. In an extensive project the buildings of our law-enforcement institutions have come under heavy scrutiny.
Reports on toilet facilities have raised eyebrows.
But certainly the most controversial area of the survey is its particular focus on one aspect of the incarceration experience. Its findings and conclusions on the interior design of many interrogation rooms.
The magazine canvassed many customers who had spent time inside various premises across the country. Some reports were indeed positive or at least neutral in response but by far most opinions were scathing.
"It was more like being in the head of a Mississippi sludge-boat" cried one correspondent. He wished to remain anonymous as he was still pending trial.
But this attitude was indicative of the majority of the comments from the apprehended.
Color me good
The walls of many stations leave much to be desired according to the results of the study. Bland and prosaic colours predominate with little alleviation to the unremitting dullness.
Even a slightly speckled effect or a decorative floral border could help enliven the drab surroundings it is claimed. Battleship grey or olive green suggest a bargain on bulk purchases of cheap paint at the Army Surplus Store rather than a vivid appreciation of the colour spectrum.
Many suspects, or those simply forced to volunteer with enquiries, complain about the length of time they are forced to wait in these rooms before the questioning even begins.
"I was glad to get a 4-hour grilling from the Drugs Squad" said one customer from Tennessee, "At least it took my mind off those friggin walls!"
Indeed the complete lack of visual stimulus has led to lawyers entering special pleas of 'Tedium Insidious' in defence of their clients. They accuse the authorities of deliberately imposing appalling décor on people to soften them up.
The writing on the wall
Even worse are the buildings where the form and fabric have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that they fall into decay and disrepair. Time-worn and dilapidated with strips of wallpaper peeling, dirt marks and graffiti all over the walls and also, it is claimed, the faint remnants of dried-up blood stains from long ago.
But since the introduction of video cameras in police interrogation rooms the occasional face-to-brick encounter is now of the past. The technology was widely introduced as far back as the 1980s and 90's in many states.This means that the dirt, grime and bodily fluids could be more than 30 years old.
Surely time for a complete makeover but with a modern flourish respecting modern sensitivities. Even the most well-kept premises suffer from a cold sterility and lack of imagination.
Makeover : A new reality
Dupont LeFrais of the TV Reality Show 'Superior Interiors' couldn't agree more.
"Oh we could do so much more with these dreadful places" he explained "Some nice pastel shades to brighten things up. Hanging baskets or a tasteful watercolour to lend some warmth with some subtle uplighting perhaps. But, oh my, those huge mirrors would have to go. Much too big. They simply overwhelm and ruin the ambience"
A shift in opinion
The advocates of Feng Shui seem prominent in the responses as many answered that it could improve the atmosphere.
However opponents of the survey allege that the results were skewed. At the time of the opinion poll there had been a large number of arrests at the infamous riot in a Millwaukee New Age Commune and at a Vegetable Freedom march in San Francisco.
But LeFrais supports the need for furniture arrangement.
"I definitely feel that a simple repositioning of the tables and chairs would improve the whole interrogation experience. Far more conducive to creating positive energy and a free flow of dialogue. There's so much tension at these meetings"
Around 56% of respondents questioned in the survey went even further. From their experience a complete overhaul in the furniture and fittings needed to happen.. Another 22% said that renovation would be enough whilst a further 12% said they had a cast-iron alibi.
"They need to spend more on sturdy tables" said one anonymous person "Them crazy pigs hammer the crap outa the woodwork"
Sharp corners and splinters notwithstanding many detainees felt that the regular tables and chairs represented a serious health and safety issue. More money should be spent.
"We deserve better. I pay my taxes" said one man from Delaware, "At least I do when the IRS track me down. "
The official response
To address all these complaints and recommendations we spoke with Vernon Grimp of the American Police Association. He had this to say.
"Certainly we value the opinions of our clientele. After all, they keep us in a job, especially the repeat customers. But compared to the joint our rooms are like a Vegas lush-pad. My best advice to these degenerates is to make a quick confession and plead guilty."
It's a relative argument it seems and the Association seems less than responsive to customer requirements. The official line is to be grateful for small mercies and just sign on the dotted line.