Radical Philosophy Today

Volume 5, 2007

Democracy, Racism, and Prisons

Brady Thomas Heiner
Pages 219-227

“From the Prison of Slavery to the Slavery of Prison”
Angela Y. Davis’s Abolition Democracy

One of the most radical dimensions of Davis’s critique of American democracy is her exposure of the vestiges of slavery that remain in the contemporary criminal justice system. I discuss this aspect of her critical project, its roots in Du Bois’s critique of Black Reconstruction, and the way that it informs her prison abolitionism and her two-pronged program for the formation of a genuine “abolition democracy.” I conclude by reflecting upon Davis’s reticence about abolition as a constructive enterprise and assessing some of the challenges faced by the contemporary abolitionist movement.