The Routledge International Handbook of Penal Abolition provides an authoritative and comprehensive look at the latest developments in the 21st-century penal abolitionism movement, both reflecting on key critical thought and setting the agenda for local and global abolitionist ideas and interventions over the coming decade.

Penal abolitionists question the legitimacy of criminal law, policing, courts, prisons and more broadly the idea of punishment, to argue that rather than effectively handling or solving social problems, interpersonal disputes, conflicts and harms, they actually increase individual and societal problems. The Routledge International Handbook of Penal Abolition is organized around six key themes:

  • Social movements and abolition organizing
  • Critical resistance to the penal state
  • Voices from imprisoned and marginalized communities
  • Diversity of abolitionist thought
  • International perspectives on abolitionism
  • Building new justice practices as a response to social and individual wrongdoing.

A global-centred and world-encompassing project, this book provides the reader with an alternative and critical perspective from which to reflect and raises the visibility of abolitionist ideas and strategies in a time when there is considerable discussion of how we will move forward in response to what has given rise to the criminalizing system: white supremacy, racial capitalism and human wrongdoing. It is essential reading for all those engaged with punishment and penology, criminology, sociology, corrections and critical prisons studies. It will appeal to any reader who seeks an innovative response to the calamitous failures of the modern criminalizing system.

chapter |12 pages


The six hues of penal abolitionism

part 1|72 pages

Abolition now

chapter 1|4 pages

Escaping the carceral state

chapter 2|2 pages


chapter 3|11 pages

A word waiting to happen

Sisters Inside’s abolition journey

chapter 4|7 pages

Abolitionist reforms

chapter 9|10 pages

The agricultural industrial complex

Abolition and subversion

part 2|87 pages

Resisting penal subjugation

chapter 10|1 pages


chapter 11|3 pages

A failed penal system

chapter 13|10 pages

The maroon as abolitionist

On fugitivity and gangs in Cape Town

chapter 14|13 pages

“Dare to struggle, dare to win”

U.S. prisoners collectively resisting against systems of death

chapter 15|12 pages

‘Help me please’

Death and self-harm in male prisons in England and Wales

chapter 16|1 pages

Prison is a place

chapter 17|3 pages

Prisons are broken

chapter 18|4 pages

If these walls could talk

chapter 21|11 pages

Prison abolition movement in France

Theoretical and tactical debates since the 1970s

chapter 22|1 pages

My child, questions

part 3|67 pages

Abolitionism is for the oppressed

chapter 24|2 pages

Journal entry

December 1, 2018

chapter 25|11 pages

Queering penal abolition

chapter 27|2 pages

Surviving domestic violence and its consequences

In the ‘good ole boy state’ of Tennessee

chapter 28|3 pages

Cruel and unusual punishment

The need to abolish prisons from the perspective of a person with a disability

chapter 29|11 pages

Enabling penal abolitionism

The need for reciprocal dialogue between critical disability studies and penal abolitionism

chapter 30|12 pages

Barred by the maddening state

Mental health and incarceration in the heterosexist, anti-Black, settler colonial carceral state

chapter 31|11 pages

Political prisoner

An Irish Republican in the British penal system

part 4|91 pages


chapter 32|1 pages

If I were a nuclear power plant

chapter 33|2 pages


chapter 34|2 pages

My prison experience 1

chapter 35|10 pages

Prisons as colonial relics

Anti-prison thought and Ghanaian history

chapter 36|11 pages

Thinking beyond penal reform in India

Questioning the logic of colonial punishments

chapter 37|11 pages

A disbelief in colonial penality

Settler colonialism and abolitionism

chapter 39|11 pages

Mestizo penal abolitionism

The case of Argentina 1

chapter 41|10 pages

Penal abolitionism and restorative justice in Brazil

Towards a transformative justice model?

chapter 42|10 pages

As goes the South, so goes the nation

Abolition as a regional force in the United States

part 5|88 pages

Abolitionist reimaginings

chapter 43|1 pages

The systems

chapter 44|1 pages

Security detention

chapter 45|6 pages

Abolition as radical reform

chapter 46|11 pages

The “dark matter” of justice

Penal abolition practices in everyday life

chapter 47|11 pages

The revolutionary consciousness of abolition

Social morality and value-based praxis

chapter 49|10 pages

Rethinking punitive paternalism

Abolitionism, the personal and political

chapter 51|12 pages

Beyond racial capitalism’s spacetime

Unleashing the Utopian imagination for youth justice

part 6|38 pages

Activist toolbox

chapter 1|5 pages

Our values and vision

Sisters Inside

chapter 3|13 pages

Abolition organizing toolkit (selections) 1

Critical Resistance

chapter 4|5 pages

Reformist reforms vs. abolitionist steps in policing 1

Critical Resistance

chapter 5|3 pages

Abolitionist demands: toward the end of prisons in Aotearoa 1

No Pride in Prisons