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Distributed for Reaktion Books

States of Incarceration

Rebellion, Reform, and America’s Punishment System

Distributed for Reaktion Books

States of Incarceration

Rebellion, Reform, and America’s Punishment System

A crucial book for our current moment, uncovering the history of mass incarceration in the United States and engaging with the major challenges of contemporary prison and police abolition activism.
Inspired by the George Floyd Rebellion, States of Incarceration examines the ongoing reconfiguration of mass incarceration as crucial for understanding how race, class, and punishment shape America today. The rise of mass incarceration has coincided with massive disinvestment in working-class communities, particularly communities of color, and a commitment to criminalize poverty, addiction, and interpersonal violence. As Jarrod Shanahan and Zhandarka Kurti argue, the present is a moment of transition and potential reform of incarceration and, by extension, the American justice system. States of Incarceration provides insights into the rise of mass incarceration and its recent history while focusing on the needs of campaigners struggling with the issues of police and prison abolition, as well as the challenges that lie ahead. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with these questions.

240 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2022

Field Notes

History: General History

Sociology: Criminology, Delinquency, Social Control

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"This book, perhaps the most synthetic and ambitious look at the George Floyd Rebellion, is an attempt to view the events of 2020 from the perspective of complete social transformation—which is to say, revolution."

The Brooklyn Rail

States of Incarceration is that rare thing among books of its type: openly militant, yet thoughtful and self-aware, opting for even-handedness and sober self-assessment rather than the tired sloganeering typical of left-wing activism, or the edifying lyricism of defeat.”

Los Angeles Review of Books

"This book powerfully explores the mass protests following George Floyd’s murder by police and articulately advocates for abolishing the criminal justice system. Shanahan and Kurtido not minimize the burning down of the police station in Minneapolis, MN, or the damaging of hundreds of police cars in many cities, which showed courage and tactical ingenuity but not a coherent politics. They root the problems of the carceral state in the dynamics of criminal justice under capitalism. . . Because the problem is criminal justice under capitalism, decades of so-called policing reforms have not changed the basic problems. Arguing for abolition, the authors do not present a detailed plan so much as thoughtful questions about tactics and long-term praxis to achieve community safety and post-capitalist justice."


“Bold and brilliant, States of Incarceration is essential reading for those who labor to counter repression and movement capture. The authors offer fierce, fluid analyses of police/state violence and critique progressives' contradictions. The analyses of US history, contemporary uprisings, and current conflicts enlighten and strengthen the work of freedom communities. Share and debate this book.”

Joy James, author of 'In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love,' and editor of 'Imprisoned Intellectuals and The New Abolitionists.'

“Deeply researched and tightly argued, States of Incarceration offers a nuanced history of the US carceral state and the politics of its abolition, deftly demonstrating why the latter emerged as the political horizon of the 2020 George Floyd Rebellion. Breaking with those committed to burying the inspiration of this insurrectionary moment as well as those who have lost hope in abolitionism’s potential in the wake of the rebellion’s demise, this book makes a clear and convincing case for holding firm to abolitionism as a dynamic revolutionary politic.”

Toussaint Losier, co-author of 'Rethinking the American Prison Movement'

“Abolition is a brick. Will it be used to build the courthouses and carceral institutions of the future, or will it be thrown through their windows? States of Incarceration makes a powerful case for the latter, poring over the blueprints of our carceral present while imagining what might be born from its smoldering ashes."

Geo Maher, author of 'A World Without Police'

“A manifesto written by and for activists. A call to deeply informed activism. A defense and critique of revolutionary violence. A polemic to be taken very seriously. An invitation to leap into an imagined future without carceral states.”

Tony Platt, University of California, Berkeley, author of 'Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States'

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