Are Prisons Obsolete?

For August’s Equity Resource, Maggie Rittenhouse, Tangletown resident, recommends the book “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis as an incredible historical, political and moral review of why prisons began, what they hoped to achieve and their role in our society today.

This short, concise book provides immense insight to our society’s view on what crime is, how (or if) we truly believe in rehabilitation and the consequences of building a vast, public and privatized system of incarceration. For a country with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, it seems critical we ask – is this what we want? Is it working? And are there alternatives? As Angela Davis says in the book, “We should therefore question whether a system that was intimately related to a particular set of historical circumstances that prevailed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can lay absolute claim on the twenty-first century.”

As our city, county and state continue to talk about creating a more equitable criminal justice system, this book is a great resource for those wanting to understand more about the underpinnings of the system and how to critically assess ideas from our local politicians and leaders.