If you’re new to the concept of prison abolition, there are way too many places to start.
You could start historically: the first American penitentiary, ye olde Walnut Street Jail, began as a method of reform courtesy of Pennsylvania Quakers. Incarceration as punishment was considered enlightened compared to corporal punishment, fines, public humiliation, and the death penalty.
… or with problems: America incarcerates more people per capita than any other developed nation in the world, in many states they get more funding than public universities, they’re riddled with violence, and roughly two-thirds of the people who get out of prison end up back behind bars within three years. Ouch.
… or with solutions: folks are trying to address problems with the prison system by creating things like drug courts, family courts, sentencing circles, etc. etc. Some solutions work better than others, but it’s mad good that people are even thinking about the issue.
… or with current events: with the upcoming presidential election, for example, voting rights for people convicted of crimes are a hot topic. So happy to hear that Mr. Romney doesn’t think anyone convicted of a violent crime should ever be able to cast a vote. There’s an outside possibility that Mitt knows that the folks convicted of violent crimes are mostly poor, a.k.a. disproportionately liberal. Just sayin’.
The list goes on. Personally, I always tell people to read Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? It is a small book, but mighty. Davis is really freaking smart, and she’s covered the issue so concisely and thoroughly that I honestly have a hard time thinking about prison abolition in any framework other than hers. Hit up Amazon.com or perhaps a library (don’t you just love libraries?) for the book, or holla at me and I’ll send you one of the many copies I’ve mysteriously accumulated over the years.
Or just read my next post for a not-at-all-good-enough but much-shorter-and-more-instantly-gratifying “best of” Are Prisons Obsolete?, and then I’m assuming you’ll get so excited you won’t be able to control yourself and will immediately drive/bike/jog to your local library; don’t forget to put on shoes.