“Completes me” may be a bit hyperbolic but it certainly challenged me in the best possible way. I have been reading more and more from AK Press and their many anarchist publications and this gem of a book, “The Abolition of Prison” by Jacques Lesage de La Haye is expectational. It is a brief yet poignant argument for the abolishment of the penal system in all its various manifestations.
As “Defund the Police” began to gain attention, particularly in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd, I found myself wanting to know and understand abolition in general and particularly in regards to the prison industrial complex. This book is one of many resources I have gained insight and knowledge from and serves as a sort of treatise. With chapter titles such as: Why Prisons?, Alternatives to Incarceration: The Forerunners, and How Do We Get Abolition?, the reader is given clear concise answers to core questions of the movement.
In reading this book it becomes obvious just how long the abolition of prisons has been a calling cry for many. Lesage de La Haye presents his arguments and evidence not only in his own words but through those of other abolitionists throughout history and many of his contemporaries. Most of the names were new to me, but Michel Foucault and Angela Davis are familiar and Lesage de La Haye has inspired me to dive more deeply into their writings.
“The Abolition of Prison” is a direct and concise treatise on the history, shortcomings, experiments and hopes for the future when it comes to the imprisonment of our fellow humans. It is a foundational text making accessible the abolitionist voice and argument for a better, more humane and just society. I highly recommend it as a place to start or refresh your commitment to abolition.