University of Rochester

About Us

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “decarceration” mean?

Angela Davis, in her book Are Prisons Obsolete?, asks us to think of decarceration as "a constellation of alternative strategies and institutions, with the ultimate aim of removing the prison from the social and ideological landscapes of our society" (2003:107).

Decarceration is the opposite of incarceration. It can mean reducing the number of people in prisons or confinement. More broadly, we mean it to involve reducing, or eliminating, our dependence on systems, ideologies, and logics that cage and confine.

What does “carceral logics” mean?

“Carceral logics” refers to the variety of ways our bodies, minds, and actions have been shaped by the idea and practices of imprisonment—even for people who do not see themselves connected explicitly to prisons.

Are there ways for me to get involved with RDRI?

Yes! Whether you’re a student, faculty member, formerly incarcerated community member, Rochester resident, activist, or scholar at another university, would love to talk to you and figure out ways to get you involved, ways we can learn from you, or ways we can link to your existing work. Please contact us.

Where should I park for events?

Parking is free in Library Lot on campus during our evening events.

Do you record your events so I can see them if I cannot attend?

We often don’t record because our guests ask not to be formally taped. But don’t hesitate to contact us about specific events for details.

I want to get involved in prison education. Is that part of RDRI’s work?

To learn more about prison education efforts at the University of Rochester, please visit the Rochester Prison Education Program.

What are some other resources I can look to for information about incarceration and decarceration?

We recommend beginning with the Prison Abolition Syllabus, compiled by the African American Intellectual History Society, and this conversation (Part 1; Part 2) with Ori Burton, who gave a talk as part of RDRI’s Speaker Series in October 2018.

And here is a partial bibliography you may find useful:

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, 2010).

Benforado, Adam. Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice (Crown, 2015).

Davis, Angela. Are Prisons Obsolete? (Seven Stories, 2003).

Ferguson, Robert A. Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment (Harvard UP, 2014).

Forman, James. Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (FSG, 2017).

Fortner, Michael Javen. Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment (Harvard UP, 2015).

Garland, David. Culture of Control: Crime & Social Order in Contemporary Society (Chicago UP, 2002).

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007).

Gottschalk, Marie. The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America (Cambridge UP, 2006).

Gottschalk, Marie. Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (Princeton UP, 2014).

Guenther, Lisa. Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (Minnesota, 2013).

Harcourt, Bernard E. The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Harvard UP, 2012).

James, Joy. The New Abolitionists: (Neo)slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings (SUNY UP, 2005).

Lewis, Orlando F. The Development Of American Prisons and Prison Customs, 1776 to 1845 (Kessinger, 2005).

Lynch, Mona. “Mass incarceration, legal change, and locale: Understanding and remediating American penal overindulgence.” Criminology and Public Policy 10:3 (2011), 673–698.

Mauer, Marc, and Ghandnoosh, Nazgol. “Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States” (The Sentencing Project, 2014).

McLennan, Rebecca. The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941 (Cambridge UP, 2008).

Muhammad, Khalil Gibran. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard UP, 2011).

Murakawa, Naomi. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America (Princeton UP, 2014).

Rafter, Nicole. Creating Born Criminals (University of Illinois Press, 1998).

Reed, Austin. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict (Penguin, 2016).

Rodriguez, Dylan. Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (Minnesota, 2006).

Ruggiero, Vincenzo. Penal Abolitionism (Oxford UP, 2010).

Scott, J., Moses, M. S., Finnigan, K. S., Trujillo, T., & Jackson, D. D. (2017). Law and order in school and society: How discipline and policing policies harm students of color, and what we can do about it. Boulder, CO: National Center for Education Policy

Sekula, Alan. “The Body and the Archive,” October 39 (1986), 3-64.

Sinha, Manisha. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale UP, 2016).

Story, Brett (dir). The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016).

Thomson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon, 2016).

Wacquant, Loïc. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Duke, 2009).

Vitale, Alex S. The End of Policing (Verso, 2017).

Weaver, Vesla. “Frontlash: Race and the Development of Punitive Crime Policy,” Studies in American Political Development 21 (2007): 230-265.

Zehr, Howard, Amstutz, Lorrain Stutzman, MacRae, Allan and Pranis, Kay. The Big Book of Restorative Justice (Good Books, 2015).