Not Giving Up on People: A Feminist Case for Prison Abolition

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (2023)
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Abstract

Feminist philosophers Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap bring theoretical arguments about personhood and moral repair into conversation with the work of activists and the experiences of incarcerated people to make the case that prisons ought to be abolished. They argue that contemporary carceral systems in the United States and Canada fail to treat people as genuine moral agents in ways that also fail victims and their larger communities. Such carceral systems are a form of what Emerick and Yap call “institutionalized moral abandonment”. Instead, they argue that we should create communities of moral solidarity which open up space for wrongdoers to make up for their wrongs. As part of this argument, the book directly addresses one of the paradigm cases of wrongdoing often used to justify carceral systems: rape. Carceral systems that treat perpetrators of sexual violence as irredeemable monsters both obscure the reality of sexual violence and are harmful to everyone involved. As an alternative to carceral systems, Emerick and Yap argue for an orientation towards justice that is grounded in moral repair. This incorporates elements of restorative justice, mutual aid, and harm reduction. Instead of advocating for one specific and universal approach, the authors argue for multigenerational collective action that aims to build resilient communities that support the wellbeing of everyone.

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Author Profiles

Barrett Emerick
St. Mary's College of Maryland
Audrey Yap
University of Victoria

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