Chapter 1-2 of “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by A. Davis

Prisons are a seemingly inevitable part of contemporary life. From a historical perspective, they make an impression of a plausible tradeoff between the cruel and barbaric punishments of the past and the need to detain individuals that pose a danger to our society. However, the penitentiary system still harbors a number of crucial issues that make it impossible to consider prisons a humane solution to crime. In fact, some experts suggest that prisons have become obsolete and should be abolished. The following paper is a reflection on the first two chapters of Angela Davis’ book Are Prisons Obsolete? which covers the phenomenon of prisons in detail.

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The first chapter of the book is clearly intended to set the stage for the book. The bulk of the chapter covers the history of the development of penitentiary industry (the prison industrial complex, as it was referred to at some point) in the United States and provides some of the numbers to create a sense of the scope of the issue. However, what impressed me the most was not the effective use of statistics but rather the question with which the author opens the chapter.

Davis starts the discussion by pointing to the fact that the existence of prisons is generally perceived as an inevitability. In other words, for the majority of people, prisons are a necessary part of modern society. As a result, an effort to abolish prisons will likely seem counterintuitive.

I find the latter idea particularly revealing. I am familiar with arguments against the death penalty, and the desire to abolish it seems evident to me. At the same time, I don’t feel the same way about prisons, which are perceived more like a humane substitute for capital punishment than an equally counterproductive and damaging practice. Interestingly, my perception does not align well with what I know about the prison system, which becomes evident after familiarizing myself with the facts from the book.

In other words, instead of arguing in favor of a certain conclusion, the author challenges the default assumption accepted by the public and brings in convincing facts in support of her position. This approach does not automatically make her correct (in fact, I can still point to several minor inconsistencies in her reasoning) but promotes independent inquiry and critical thinking. Simply put, at this point, just making the people ask themselves, “Should we even consider abolishing prisons?” is a major milestone in our roadmap for improvement, and the author achieves this goal successfully.

The second chapter deals with the racial aspects of the prison industry. Here, Davis suggests that prisons can be considered racial institutions, which automatically solves the question of whether they should be abolished. It is easy to agree that racism at this point is a major barrier to the development of humanity. The author then proceeds to explore the historical roots of prisons and establishing connections to slavery. Again, I find the approach suitable for reflection. While I don’t feel convinced by the links made by Davis, I think that it is necessary for people to ponder upon the idea and make their own conclusions.

Considering the information above, Are Prisons Obsolete? Offers valuable insights into the prison industry. In addition, it raises important ethical and moral questions and supports the argument with responsibly collected and well-organized data. Most importantly, it challenges the current default assumptions prevalent in society, which, in my opinion, is a valid start of a major-scale transformation that is long overdue.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, May 7). Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis. Retrieved from

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"Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis." StudyCorgi, 7 May 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis." May 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis." May 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis." May 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Chapter 1-2 of "Are Prisons Obsolete?" by A. Davis'. 7 May.

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