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ABOUT THE BOOK
Dr. Angela Y. Davis Are Prisons Obsolete? is a formative work about prison abolition. She explores and critiques the American penal system. The work is especially significant as the prison system continues to grow. She does not call for prison reformalthough conditions will need to be ameliorated during decarcerationbut for the eradication of prisons and their replacement with positive systems, such as schools, job training, health care and recreation programs.
People have an extremely hard time imagining the world without prisons. We think that they are an inherent and unavoidable part of society. Davis examines the historical, social, racial, economic and political reasons and context that created the prison system, in order to "encourage readers to question their own assumptions about the prison" (Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? pg 10). Davis hopes that once these elements have been exposed it will be possible to "give up our usual way of thinking about punishment as an inevitable consequence of crime" (Davis 112) and imagine a world without prisons.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Nicole Bemboom is a San Francisco based writer. In addition to writing for the exciting new publisher Hyperink, she covers the best of modern craft and design for the online magazine Handful of Salt. She received her BA in Modern Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
In the chapter "Slavery, Civic Rights, and Abolitionist Perspectives Toward Prison," Davis examines the history of modern prisons, which started developing out of a reform of the corporeal punishment common in England during the American Revolution. Reformers believed that punishment if carried out in isolation, behind the walls of the prisonwould cease to be revenge and would actually reform those who had broken the law (Davis 41).
While this was meant to help people, it ended up growing into a situation in which prisoners were kept in unbearable silence and isolated cells, except while they did hard labor. Davis also shows how prisons took over the institution of slavery, which follows in more detail in the essay Race and the Prison Sytem.
Davis examines the role of gender in the chapter How Gender Structures the Prison System. She finds the prisons reflect the gender structure in society, although she is careful to point out that defining womens prisons as marginal helps to reinforce the assumption that male prisons are normal. She also details the terror and sexual abuse that is routine in prisons.
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Angela Y. Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete?
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Nicole Bemboom is a San Francisco-based writer. In addition to writing for the exciting new publisher Hyperink, she covers the best of modern craft and design for the online magazine Handful of Salt. She received her BA in Modern Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.