Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"The case made by prison abolitionists has rhetorical force, and I think a certain persuasive power. It makes both emotional and logical appeals: emotionally, it invokes the human love of liberty and hatred of coercion, while logically, it proposes that the costs of prisons outweigh their benefits. 

It also, to a large majority of the population, almost certainly sounds completely insane.

As Gene Demby notes, while people agree that liberty is great and all, they quickly remember the “What About My Cousin?” question: they remember a person they knew who was genuinely violent and dangerous, and realize that they feel far safer knowing that person is locked up. Then, they remember all of the crimes that were worse than those committed by their cousin, and the abolitionist position begins to seem even loopier. Nevermind my cousin, what about Ted Bundy? What about serial rapists and armed robbers and hedge fund managers? Are you saying that they should be left free to roam about society perpetrating their evil deeds on the unsuspecting and upstanding? How naïve can you possibly be?

...Prison abolition and prison reform can actually be reconciled fairly easily. The ultimate goal is prison abolition, because in a world without hatred and violence there would be no need for prisons, and the goal is a world without hatred and violence. In the interim, prisons must be made better and more humane. It’s not that you should, in the world we live in now, open the prison gates and give murderers probation. It’s that you should always remember that even if you think prison is a necessary evil, that still makes it evil, and evil things should ultimately be gotten rid of, whatever their short-term necessity. You can be both pragmatic and utopian at the same time."

-Can Prison Abolition Ever Be Pragmatic?, Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

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