Publisher: AK Press
Released: July 13, 2021
Finalist for the 2021 Big Other Magazine Book Award for Translation.
The Abolition of Prison provides a reflection from a longtime prison abolitionist on the ideas, actions, and writings of anti-prison activism over the last fifty years. This book powerfully makes the case for the end of prisons, punishment, and guilt and, instead, suggests we work towards social change, care, collectivity, and ending regimes of repression and violence.
The book weaves together Lesage de La Haye’s own experience in prison, as a psychologist, and as an abolitionist, with arguments and proposals from abolitionist writings, and countless examples of prisoner actions, prison alternatives, and attempts to create a more just world. Lesage de La Haye argues simply that, if we take the justifications for prison and punishment at their word, we must evaluate the system as a complete failure and stop supporting and funneling money into it. There is a long history of alternative ways to address problems in society, both inside the Western systems of law and from Indigenous communities. Lesage de la Haye starkly portrays the effects of punishment, concluding that prison is simply a slow death. The move toward abolition is achievable today and necessary for a society free from systematized oppression.
Praise for The Abolition of Prison
"The Abolition of Prison encapsulates Jacques Lesage de La Haye’s four-decade long activism against the prison system in France and his anarchist perspectives on penal abolitionism. Jacques Lesage de La Haye brings together theoretical analysis and his inspiring personal journey as a criminalized youth turned into a psychologist with an extensive experience of alternative approaches to institutionalization."
—Gwenola Ricordeau, author of For Them All: Women Against the Prison System
"Each chapter of The Abolition of Prison is short yet contains a wealth of information and reflection. Several of the chapters, especially those exploring alternatives to prison, would work really well as material for a reading group. While the writing is personal and accessible there is also a call to read further, to find out more and go deeper...The book is a call for society, as a whole, to educate itself better and, moreover, to consider the types of employment, and labour more generally, that is required to make our communities spaces of care and support rather than ones of surveillance and exclusion.There is also an awareness that not all arguments or examples will work in every situation—the work of abolition needs a variety of tools both practical and theoretical."
—Sophie Fuggle, Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University
"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."
—Hannah Bergstrom de Leon, The Book War
Jacques Lesage de La Haye is a formerly incarcerated psychoanalyst, and the author of La Guillotine du sexe (Gender’s Execution), among other books. He broadcasts the radio show, Ras les murs (Tear down the walls) on Radio Libertaire and has been fighting prisons for more than fifty years.
Scott Branson (they/them) is a writer, translator, community organizer, and teacher, based in North Carolina.