The Weekly Abolitionist: Public Good or Public Bad?
If you ask an economist to suggest areas where the state should be involved, one answer you’re likely to hear is that states should provide “public goods.” A public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rival. By non-excludable, economists mean that once the good is produced individuals cannot be excluded from consuming…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Prisons and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs, or people who are alert to profit opportunities and act in order to obtain profits for themselves, exist in all societies. But the profit opportunities they seek will vary. Some entrepreneurs may seek to profit by providing consumers with goods they value, such as pizza or beer. Others may attempt to profit by seeking…
Prisons and Primitive Accumulation
One important point my colleague Kevin Carson has emphasized repeatedly is that the prevailing labor relations in our society are not just a natural outgrowth of voluntary exchanges in a free market. Instead, they have resulted from pervasive state intervention that constrains the options of workers, thus leaving them in a worse position to bargain…
When Prisons Enable Crime
The dominant belief in our society is that prisons are a necessary tool to fight crime. Prisons are often thought to counter crime in at least three ways: 1. Deterrence: The expectation of a prison sentence increases the perceived cost of committing a crime, thus creating incentives not to commit crimes. 2. Incapacitation: By coercively…
A Prison by Any Other Name
Some critics of mass incarceration see the contemporary carceral state as a result of the abolition of state-run mental hospitals. For example, German Lopez of Vox recently wrote that “America’s criminal justice system has, in many ways, become a substitute for the US’s largely gutted mental health system.” Yet when the mental health system was “gutted,” what…
Plea Bargains vs. High School Civics Fantasies
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Prison Abolition at ISFLC
That’s right, I’m back! You can once again get your weekly dose of prison abolitionist opinion and analysis right here at the Center for a Stateless Society. Throughout my absence, my C4SS colleagues have presented excellent prison abolitionist commentary. For example, Nick Ford argued that despite Tutwiler Prison’s formal demise, the rape-filled prison system it represents…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Prisons and the Myth of Democratic Legitimacy
It’s election day in the USA. The mass incarceration nation is deciding which political opportunists will rule. On the state and local level, citizens are casting their votes on ballot initiatives that will determine the structure, specifics, or application of state coercion. Some of these ballot initiatives probably deserve support from prison abolitionists, specifically initiatives…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Sex Work and the Police State
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Students For Liberty’s New Orleans Regional Conference. It was a delightful event, featuring a talk by C4SS’s own Roderick Long along with many other radical, principled, and insightful speakers. One of the most interesting presentations was by Maggie McNeill, a retired sex worker who blogs at The…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Prisons Without Punishment?
For libertarian prison abolitionists, Randy Barnett’s The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law is an indispensable book. Not only does Barnett offer a persuasive series of arguments for a stateless legal order, he further argues against the legitimacy of punishment altogether. However, even as crucial as Barnett’s work is for libertarian prison…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Exploring the Causes of Mass Incarceration
It’s well known that the United States has the largest prison population on Earth. It’s less obvious why this is the case. To truly understand mass incarceration, we should examine what caused America’s prison population to grow so dramatically over the last several decades. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and…
The Weekly Abolitionist: The Pernicious Consequences of Mandatory Minimums
Mandatory minimum sentences have been receiving a fair bit of scrutiny lately, largely due to the efforts of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). And rightly so. Mandatory minimums remove discretion and context from sentencing, resulting in grossly unjust and wildly disproportionate sentences for minor offenses. Moreover, they’ve caused some troubling shifts in who has discretionary…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Do We Want Cops & Politicians in Prison?
Do we want cops and politicians to go to prison? Is that a demand that individualist anarchists, radical libertarians, and other enemies of the state should get behind? Intuitively, it seems like we should. We’re instinctively outraged that cops can outright murder people and almost never get locked up for it. We’re understandably incensed that politicians…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Pretrial Detention as a Human Rights Crisis
A new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative documents the overuse of pretrial detention around the globe. The report estimates that around 3.3 million people are currently incarcerated awaiting trial. These people have yet to be convicted of any crime, yet they are locked in cages and subjected to brutal human rights abuses. Martin Schoenteich…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Why Abolition Must Be Emphasized
For this week’s Weekly Abolitionist post, I’d like to emphasize the importance of holding a specifically abolitionist stance on prisons. Getting rid of prisons is not just one more reform to tack on after we’ve accomplished everything else. It’s the primary goal, and all other reforms should be judged with that in mind. The key…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Prison Guard Unions vs. Private Prison Contractors
In a comment on last week’s post on The Labor Politics of Prisons, Steve Robinson said that my discussion of guards unions was “interesting given past posts about the for-profit prison industry.” He noted that while prison guard unions push for increased incarceration, they also are generally harmed by prison privatization, as private prison contractors have incentives to…
The Labor Politics of Prisons
Today is Labor Day, a federal holiday in the United States designed to promote a sanitized history of labor organizing. As Charles Johnson puts it, “the federal holiday known as Labor Day is actually a Gilded Age bait-and-switch from 1894. It was crafted and promoted in an effort to throw a bone to labor while erasing the radicalism implicit in May…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Pitfalls and Possibilities
The protests, police violence, and repression in Ferguson have sparked nationwide conversations about police militarization and misconduct. There’s some incredibly promising potential here, as more and more people become aware of the brutality of the modern criminal justice system. However, there are also some potential pitfalls that deserve cautious examination. First, the good. Popular commentators…
The Weekly Abolitionist: Chris Burbank and the Myth of “Good Cops”
Last week, Radley Balko published an interesting piece on the question “After Ferguson, how should police respond to protests?”  He contrasted the militarized approach seen in Ferguson and in the Battle of Seattle with less reactionary and more cooperative forms of policing. One police chief Balko praised was Chris Burbank of Salt Lake City, my hometown….
The Weekly Abolitionist: A Prison Abolitionist Reading List
Recently in the Los Angeles Times, Carolina A. Miranda published a list of “8 eye-opening prison books.” Out of the books listed, I’ve only read Angela Davis’s excellent treatise on the prison-industrial complex, Are Prisons Obsolete.  I’ll be adding the rest to my reading list, however. This got me thinking about what I would recommend…
Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist