Book Review: Are Prisons Obsolete?

Anthony Anthony #book review

Although Angela Davis had her book Are Prisons Obsolete? first published in 2003, I find it’s contents now and for sometime into the future as text for serious study. Making a strong and relevant case for prison abolition, she plainly delivers the goods deriving from established historical record and the current realities of market driven social dynamism in her thesis. Presenting the nexus of profit and punishment as it exists she informs the reader of the reality that prisons are.

Well researched, the book exposes the interest held in growing incarceration rates by “companies that one would assume are far removed from the work of state punishment have developed major stakes in the perpetuation of a prison system whose historical obsolescence is therefore that much more difficult to recognize.” Her riveting manuscript, (with chapters such as: Prison reform or Prisn abolition, and the Prison-industrial complex) points out the continuities of history, opening eyes to the now observable development of penal institutions and the correlations in developing economies and markets.

Noting gender is tantamount to structure within penal systems and their development, she sticks to her abolitionist guns in serious critique of reformist direction, her feminism resilient in the hailstorm of typically “feminist” reformism. The last chapter, “abolitionist alternatives” opens the door and mind giving the reader plenty to conceptualize the potentials for integral and needed change with.

Informative, conscious, and radically important this book is a short, but stacked, read for those curious about the prison-industrial complex and prison abolition. Nothing short of compelling, I will definitely seek out more writings by professor Davis in the future. Her book is published by Seven Stories Press.