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Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis asks the question that most people think can never be answered in this society, where imprisonment is seen as central to conceptions of justice. In her careful analysis, Davis foregrounds the prison as a racist institution and outlines how prisons criminalise people on the basis of race and class.

She also demonstrates how the Prison Industrial Complex – the exploitation of prison labour by private corporations – is a central oil which keeps the wheels of global capitalism turning.


If prison abolition seems to you like an idea only reserved for crazy people, Davis points to historical examples such as slavery and the civil rights movement in America as two places where there was great resistance to their ending – but where today we can’t imagine a ‘civilised’ society where such blatant, institutionalised racism visibly flourishes.

Davis offers a convincing, reasonable and suggestive argument for the decarceration of people. Although based in the history of the US, her book is an important starting point for anyone wanting the tools to think – and act – outside of the box on these issues.


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