HMC Architects’ short film “A Place of Second Chances” has won second place in the Fifth Annual American Institute of Architects (AIA) Film Challenge: A Blueprint for Better, which invites architects and filmmakers to collaborate to share stories of designers and civic leaders working together to build resilient and sustainable communities.

Filmed by HMC’s Chris Grant, Francisco Penaloza, and Dave Fennema, “A Place of Second Chances” presents the hopeful stories of two individuals who prove that the tide of recidivism can be reversed, when the prison is designed to comfort and rehabilitate, rather than simply punish. Kanya Zepeda and Robin Schwab—collectively spent close to seven years in Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee, California. Zepeda was one-month pregnant when she began her sentence. With over half of prisoners in America’s corrections system suffering from abuse, trauma and mental illness, the County of San Diego recognized that building a healing environment to promote well-being and prevent further psychological deterioration was imperative.

A first-of-its-kind in the U.S., the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility, which opened in 2014, uses environmental and behavioral psychology to improve the experience and behavior of inmates and staff. Using scientifically-proven research on how light, color, materials, texture, air quality, acoustics and access to nature affect mental and physical well-being, design decisions were informed by the idea of transforming lives. This not only prepared Zepeda and Schwab for a successful transition back into society upon release, it also helped them overcome their past to become positive role models.

As part of the Architecture & Design Film Festival, “A Place for Second Chances” will have screenings in Chicago, New York, Vancouver and Toronto.