Here is a copy of my Prison Logics and Abolition Futures syllabus. This syllabus was heavily inspired by the Prison Abolition Syllabus 2.0, found HERE. I've added questions to guide individual reading or group discussion. Where useful, I've also included links to my lecture slides. Many of these readings can be found online or through your public library - underlined text indicates a hyperlink or download. If a pay wall stands between you and any of these readings, please contact me. 

UNIT 1 - Theories and Origins of Punishment

Day One - What is Mass Incarceration?

Day Two - What is Crime? What is Punishment? What is "The Criminal"?

Day Three - The Prison as Disciplinary, Pt. 1

Day Four - The Prison as Disciplinary, Pt. 2

Day Five - The Prison and Racist State Violence, aka Foucault Was Wrong!!

UNIT 2 - The History of US Mass Incarceration and Anti-Prison Rebellion

Day Six - Settler Colonialism, Racial Capitalism, and the Origins of Prison

Day Seven - The Origins of Immigration "Detention"

Day Eight - The Deep Roots of Mass Incarceration

Day Nine - A History of Criminalizing Blackness

Day Ten - Mid-20th C. Crime and Punishment, aka Liberals Will Not Save Us!!

Day Eleven - Prisoner Resistance

Day Twelve - The Political Economy of Prisons, aka Private Prisons are NOT the Root Problem!! Racial Capitalism Is!!

Day Thirteen - More Political Economy of Prisons

Day Fourteen - Prison Society Beyond Prison Walls, aka Movies are Fun!!

UNIT 3 - Prison Reform and Abolition

Day Fifteen - What is Prison Abolition?

Day Sixteen - Resisting the Innocence/Guilt Binary

Day Seventeen - Which Reforms Are Abolitionist and Which Reforms Are Not? 

Day Eighteen - #AbolishICE and Police Abolition

  • I was absent for this day, so I created several activities HERE that you might adapt for your own needs.

Day Nineteen - Youth Incarceration and #NoNewYouthJail

Day Twenty - The Future of Prison Abolition


  • Law may be based in formally in philosophy, but it is also a social relation and process. - Beccaria, Dayan

  • Power is not a “thing” but there are many kinds of power relations. - Foucault

  • Power relations reify processes into things. The prison is not a thing but a set of social relations and processes. - Foucault, Davis, Gilmore, Story, etc

  • Power relations make natural what is actually socially produced. No person just is an individual. No people just are a population. - Foucault, Alford, Muhammad, etc

  • Where we get our theory matters. - Davis, Hernandez

  • Crime and punishment in the US have never not been tied to relations of settler colonialism, slavery, White supremacy, capitalism, labor, gender, patriarchy, dis/ability (e.g., reason), sexuality and kin-making. - Davis, Hernandez, 13th, LeFlouria, Muhammad

  • Crime and punishment are historical constructions, though their effects are no less real for being produced. They reflect the views of the time (e.g., who is human, who has a soul, what pays their debt, etc). - Davis, Hernandez, etc

  • Histories of incarceration are multi-scalar (i.e., national, transnational, regional, local). - Muhammad

  • Exceptionalism (e.g., “the South is the worst”) and binaries (e.g., “prisons are good or bad, better or worse) stifle our ability to think. - Muhamma, Murakawa

  • Focusing too much on oppression obscures people’s humanity and agency. - Chase, Law, Mead

  • Crime and punishment are tied to the kind of economy we build. - Gilmore, Wang

  • Prisons is not the only socially-organized way to respond to harm. - Davis

  • Abolition is about more than just prison buildings. - Davis, Ben-Moshe

  • Abolition requires organizations, collectives, and solidarity. - Gilmore

  • Reform and abolition exist on a spectrum. - Ben-Moshe

  • Radical rhetoric is not the same as radical outcomes. - Vasquez

  • Skepticism and generous curiosity are not the same as cynicism. Hope is not the same as optimism.