The architecture of the place of detention must ensure that the living spaces are both safe and sound. Moreover, the design of these places must guarantee a minimum amount of privacy and contribute to the aim of rehabilitation. In practice, living conditions vary considerably from one country to another, but also from one establishment to another, in particular because of their size, state of wear, standard of cleanliness, or else because of the type of regime in operation.
The oldest establishments tend not to provide adequate living conditions, because of risks associated with poor sanitation, but also because of the way they were designed. The same is true of places which were not originally intended to be prisons but which were later converted as such. It can also happen that, because of lack of space within a prison, areas such as stock rooms or workshops are turned into cells, even though they do not fulfil satisfactory conditions for accommodation.
Newer establishments sometimes feature architecture that tends to dehumanise social relationships. Even if modern prisons often provide higher quality material conditions of accommodation, they tend to prioritise the need for security and a concern for economy to the detriment of rehabilitation objectives.
Noise disturbance, within the context of deprivation of liberty, may prove particularly hard to endure. The quality of the partitions or walls between the cells, as well as the doors and floor coverings, should guarantee a minimum level of sound-proofing, especially in establishments where detainees spend the majority of their time in their cell. Sometimes air vents are blocked by detainees because they are too noisy, thereby directly affecting the quality of air in the cells or dormitories.