Davis’s Are Prisons Obsolete

Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Davis


This book came out more than ten years ago, when the modern-day prison abolitionist movement was surging on the left, powered by groups like Critical Resistance and intellectuals like Davis. I was part of that world and I’m a little embarrassed it took me this long to read this.

This is make, no mistake, a polemic. But it is also well done arguing the case that we need not just prison reform, but prison abolition. That the institution cannot be reformed, but instead must be abandoned. It’s a radical, idea, of course. But one worth taking seriously.

There’s nothing that says we must imprison those who break societies laws. Other forms of restorative justice and mediation should also be considered. Davis makes the cases for these alternatives to incarceration eloquently and succinctly in this slim volume and while I don’t also agree with her, I always find her compelling. Too often today we tune out the voices that don’t align exactly with our own opinions. That’s a mistake. Take the concept Davis is arguing (that prisons are barbaric and should be replaced) seriously. Listen to her arguments, look at her sources, and decide what is valid and what isn’t. You’ll be a better citizen for it.

Worth a read for those interested in criminal justice and a just society, which, really should be all of us.


A Rage Inducing Indictment of Our Justice System — My Quick Notes on Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Bryan Stevenson

As soon as I finished Just Mercy, I ordered four additional copies of the book to share with friends and relatives. I’ve never done that before, but this book is so powerful and so important that I felt the need to physically put it in people’s hands.

Just Mercy is a number of things. It is a memoir of sorts of Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and one of the country’s foremost death penalty and social justice lawyers. It is the story of Walter McMillian a man falsely accused of murder who spent years on death row before Stevenson and his team exonerated him. And perhaps most importantly it is a searing, heartbreaking, rage inducing indictment of our criminal justice system and the way it destroys the lives of so, so many.

Walter McMillian and Bryan Stevenson after McMillian’s release.

It’s an incredible book full of wrenching stories of people (mostly black and brown, mostly poor) who have gotten fucked over by our justice system. But it is more than this as well. It’s also the story of how Stevenson has kept his humanity, and his hope in justice, while doing the hardest work a lawyer can do day in, day out, for decades.

This one is beyond a good book, or even an important book, it’s an essential book. I have an extra copy you can borrow if you want.



Bryan Stevenson