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For Abolition

Essays on Prisons and Socialist Ethics

by David Scott, Foreword by Joe Sim


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According to Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ Connecting the politics of abolition to wider emancipatory struggles for liberation and social justice, this book argues that penal abolitionism should be understood as an important public critical pedagogy and philosophy of hope that can help to reinvigorate democracy and set society on a pathway towards living in a world without prisons.

For Abolition draws upon the socialist ethics of dignity, empathy, freedom and paradigm of life to systematically critique imprisonment as a state institution characterised by ‘social death’.

A systematic critique of imprisonment which challenges established views and myths. Examines why there still exists so much political and other misguided support for a long failing institution.


‘For Abolition is a vital response to these darkening penal times It is essential reading for anyone who cares enough to wonder why England and Wales is in sight of a daily prison population of 100,000… The book makes a challenging case well, and if it is properly digested and savoured its arguments are hard to gainsay.’– Mike Nellis, Emeritus Professor, University of Strathclyde.

‘A brilliant intellectual intervention … This book has been so very helpful.’– Simone Rowe, School of Law, Society & Criminology, Faculty of Law & Justice, The University of New South Wales.

‘A thoroughly engaging and passionate challenge to dominant understandings of crime and punishment… Prisons are revealed as sites of mental and physical brutality, utterly incapable of providing constructive transformative regimes’– Professor Emma Bell, University of Savoie.

‘A timely and urgent reminder of the need for Abolition… excellently exposes prisons as institutions of domination, repression and power… A must read for all concerned with the state of prisons’– Dr Kathryn Chadwick, Manchester Metropolitan University.

‘A book that should be cherished by scholars, students, practitioners and activists alike… it is rare to find a text so sensitively and empathically composed’– Dr Alana Barton, Edge Hill University.


Dr David Scott works at the Open University. He has published widely on prisons and punishment. His books include Why Prison? (2013, Cambridge University Press), Against Imprisonment (2018, Waterside Press) and the International Handbook of Penal Abolition (2020, Routledge).

Additional information

Weight382 g
Dimensions234 × 156 × 15 mm

Foreword author

Joe Sim


Waterside Press




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Place of origin

United Kingdom

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