[Review] “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis

1 min readJun 12, 2020


Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

Reading Angela Davis’s 2003 book right now proved to make it even more timely and pertinent than it already is. In only about 130 pages, Davis lays out a compelling argument for prison abolition by delving into the history of prisons, which is which is surprisingly short, really beginning in the 1800s and taking off in the late 20th century. The chapters deal with issues that could (and do) form entire books their own — racist underpinnings of policing in America, gender and sexual assault in prisons, and the prison-industrial complex.

I finished Are Prisons Obsolete? in one sitting and learnt so much over the course of it. While the book focuses on the prison system in America, its observations are relevant and applicable to prisons across the world, which are often modelled after or seek inspiration from the American system.

This is an extremely important read for our times, especially if your first reaction to prison abolitionists is to dismiss them.

(I have seen copies of the book floating around on a lot of online anarchist libraries if you want to get your hands on it quickly.)

Read past book reviews here!