Out of every book activist, academic, and the all around amazing Angela Y. Davis has written, this is the most recommended. I have made up my mind to read every piece I can by Ms. Davis and I have to say, Are Prisons Obsolete? was the most intriguing.
The subject is one, like Davis says, not very many people who do not have to deal with the prison system actually think about. Yes, I knew about the racist, gender-biased American prison system, however, the detail in which Davis describes it is devastating. It is the most comprehensive look at the social, economic, and political theories behind the system.
The privatization and corporatization of the “prison industrial complex” was something that was a complete shock to me. She goes on to discuss the non-unionized labor, ties to slavery, criminal punishment and the racist and sexist targeting of the poor. Davis also states what many of us do not think twice about: it is nearly impossible for us to imagine anything other than prisons for punishment of crime.
Yet, one of the most intriguing aspects of this book is the very last chapter in which Davis outlines a world without prisons. She describes it such detail and uses such a brilliant example that you can picture it just over the horizon. That is one of the aspects that I love about Angela Davis the most. She not only makes you think about issues, but she challenges us to look at them differently and ask those questions that are so difficult.
Are Prisons Obsolete? is a life changing book. Please read this.