Black & Pink Prison Abolition Syllabus

The following is a syllabus for a course on Prison Abolition that was co-taught by Jason Lydon, founder of Black and Pink ( This collection of readings is intended as a primer for readers on the creation and function of the US prison industrial complex. The course was taught in a divinity school and there is an emphasis on the role of religion and theology in this collection of readings. Many secular abolitionist efforts miss some of the important connections between religion and the creation as well as resistance to the US carceral state. Enjoy these readings in groups or on your own.

Session 1

Session 2 – The Birth of the Penitentiary

Session 3 – The 13th Amendment and Convict Leasing

Session 4 – White Supremacy and the Racialization of Incarceration

Session 5 – Death Penalty

Session 6 – Presentation by Jamie Bisonette and/or Bobby Delello on the story of Walpole

Session 7 – Women and Incarceration

Session 8 – Heteropatriarchy and the Prison Industrial Complex

Session 9 – Healthcare and Prisons

Session 10 – Police and Guard Labor: The First Line of the Prison Industrial Complex

  • Our Enemies in Blue, Kristian Williams (South End Press: Cambridge, 2007) ch 6 “Police Autonomy and Blue Power”
  • “Garrison America,” Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev in Economists’ Voice March 2007 pages 1-7
  • “Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color” in Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology (South End Press: Cambridge, 2006) pages 138-156

Session 11 – Theology and Abolition

  • The Fall of the Prison: Biblical Perspectives on Prison Abolition, Lee Griffith (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1993) “Prisons and the Bible” pages 87-118 and “Prisons and Discipleship” pages 177-203
  • Death Blossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience, Mumia Abu Jamal (South End Press: Cambridge, 1996) pages 34-60
  • “A Theology for the Penal Abolition Movement,” Jason Lydon in Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice (Taylor and Francis Group: Philadelphia, 2011) pages 296-303
  • Good Punishment: Christian Moral Practice and US Imprisonment, James Samuel Logan (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, 2008) “Mining Stanley Hauerwas: Foundations for a Christian Social Ethics of Good Punishment,” pages 143-174

Session 12 – Transformative Justice

  • (skim) “Toward Transformative Justice” Generation 5
  • Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System, Laura Magnani and Harmon L. Wray (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2006)
  • “Beautiful, Difficult, Powerful: Ending Sexual Assault Through Transformative Justice,” The Chrysalis Collective in The Revolution Starts at Home, edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samrasinha (South End Press: NYC, 2011) Ch. 14