Well, I would like to see, as Fay Honey Knopp, who was an abolitionist during the ’70s and the ’80s and one of the co-authors of a wonderful book called Instead of Prisons: An Abolitionist Handbook, you know, I would like to see an emphasis on decarceration, an emphasis on excarceration.
Angela Davis on Democracy Now, October, 2010
I’m back in school. Quite honestly, as a lifelong learner, I’ve never left. As soon as I graduated, I created a syllabus of resources on black feminist thought, narrative inquiry and transformative learning and began reading. Studying these topics was nurturing and in many ways, freeing.
Love and curiosity have led me to study mass incarceration and abolition. My new syllabus is growing. A recurring name on it? Angela Davis. I’ve been listening to her speeches, taking notes on terms, people, events I should add to my resource list.
Decarceration and excarceration are each one point of a five-point model of attrition, elaborated in Instead of Prisons (1976). The attrition model is part of a long-range strategy for abolition. The overarching goal: to dismantle the prison system. Attrition, employed as a purposeful, intentional strategy, would “diminish the function and power of prisons in our society.”
The Attrition Model
- Moratorium on new prison construction
- Restraint of the few, via the “least restrictive and most humane option for the shortest period of time.”
- Build a caring community in which support services are privileged over punitive options
Incarcerate means to confine or imprison. In contrast, decarcerate means to release. How can we begin to free some of the 2.3 million people behind bars? The authors suggest a realistic approach to the decarceration of inmates, including reduction in sentences, expanded opportunities for parole, creative restitution to victims, and decriminalization of some behaviors (applied retroactively).
Excarceration simply means avoid incarceration. In other words, what if prison ceased to be the first/ only/ mandatory response to certain behaviors? After all, what gets labeled crime is fluid. And the placement of various criminal behaviors along a continuum is somewhat arbitrary (more on that to come). What, other than jail, might be a response to undesirable behavior?
Are you open to decarceration? Would you be okay with nonviolent criminals being released before the end of their sentences? Why or why not? If you say maybe, under what circumstances might you agree?