Michael Sorkin's most recent article in the Nation magazine challenges architects to boycott prison design. He acknowledges that the ethical dilemmas presented by certain types of commissions are something that all designers have to confront periodically, but prisons in the U.S. are the worst case. We discriminate against minorities with our sentencing laws and create environments for punishment that only worsen crime.
I would sign onto this. I consider my involvement in the design of an incarceration facility unlikely, and I would only take on such work if I was starving. If things get to that point, then I might have other priorities.
A cynical observer could claim that the modern American way of life is a type of prison. But such metaphors don't stand up to the reality of waking up in a concrete cell. Spiritual fortitude and asceticism are much lauded by certain religions, but I prefer being able to drive to a Wal-Mart to buy cheap objects. The issue of freedom is not a simple one, but as John Cash noted "The culture of a thousand years is removed by the clanging of a cell door." Or something like that.