• Bree CarltonEmail author
  • Emma K. Russell


Prison abolitionist scholarship provides useful frameworks with which to assess and critique prison-focused activism and advocacy, penal reform and carceral expansion. The struggle to achieve prison abolition is one for ‘broad-based social change’, which ‘challenges multiple and overlapping sites of inequality and the discourses that ensure their institutionalization and exacerbation’ (Russell and Carlton 2013, 476). Our contribution is primarily concerned to document and explore historical lineages of feminist and abolitionist resistance to carceral violence. This focus—and the strategic practices of the anti-carceral feminist movement we examine—necessitates consideration of the broader structural conditions of inequality that reproduce the violence, oppression and injustice of incarceration. Abolition is a challenging social change project that begins with locating the historical and ongoing linkages between imprisonment and other forms of social control and harm.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Prisoners in Australia 2016. ABS publication 4517.0.Google Scholar
  2. Ben-Moshe, L., Gossett, C., Mitchell, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Critical theory, queer resistance, and the ends of capture. In G. Adelsberg, L. Guenther, & S. Zeman (Eds.), Death and other penalties: Philosophy in a time of mass incarceration (pp. 266–296). New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Berger, D. (2014). Captive nation: Black prison organizing in the civil rights era. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bianchi, H., & van Swaaningen, R. (1986). Abolitionism: Towards a non-repressive approach to crime. Amsterdam: Free University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bosworth, M. (1999). Engendering resistance. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, M., & Schept, J. (2016). Criminology, new abolition and a critical carceral studies. Punishment & Society, 19(4), 440–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carlen, P. (1983). Women’s imprisonment: A study in social control. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Carlen, P. (1990). Alternatives to women’s imprisonment. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Carlen, P. (1998). Sledgehammer: Women’s imprisonment at the millenium. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carlton, B. (2007). Imprisoning resistance: Life and death in an Australian supermax (Sydney Institute of Criminology Series No. 25). Sydney: Institute of Criminology Press.Google Scholar
  11. Carlton, B. (2018). Penal reform, anti-carceral feminist campaigns and the politics of change in women’s prisons, Victoria, Australia. Punishment & Society, 20(3), 283–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carlton, B., & Russell, E. K. (2015). ‘A gender for change’: Cycles of women’s penal reform and reconfigurations of anti-prison resistance in Victoria, Australia. Champ Pénal/Penal Field, XII.
  13. Carlton, B., & Russell, E. K. (2018). ‘We will be written out of history’: Feminist challenges to carceral violence and the activist archive. Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 8(2), 267–287.Google Scholar
  14. Chen, C.-I., Dulani, J., & Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. L. (2011). The revolution starts at home: Confronting intimate violence within activist communities. Brooklyn: South End Press.Google Scholar
  15. Christie, N. (1977). Conflicts as property. British Journal of Criminology, 17(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Christie, N. (1998). Between civility and the state. In V. Ruggiero, N. South, & I. Taylor (Eds.), The new European criminology: Crime and social order in Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Christie, N. (2000). Crime control as industry: Towards gulags, western style. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Davis, A. Y. (2003). Are prisons obsolete?. New York: Seven Stories Press.Google Scholar
  19. Davis, A. Y., & Rodriguez, D. (2000). The challenge of prison abolition: A conversation. Social Justice, 27(3), 212–218.Google Scholar
  20. Faith, K. (2000). Reflections on inside/out organizing. Social Justice, 27(3), 158–167.Google Scholar
  21. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  22. Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings 1972–1977 (C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, & K. Soper, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  23. George, A. (1999). The new prison culture: Making millions from misery. In S. Cook & S. Davies (Eds.), Harsh punishment: International experiences of women’s imprisonment (pp. 189–210). Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis and opposition in globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gilmore, S. (2008). Feminist coalitions: Historical perspectives on second-wave feminism in the United States. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gottschalk, M. (2008). Hiding in plain sight: American politics and the carceral state. Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 235–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hancock, L. (1982). Prisoner and female: The double negative. Victoria: Victorian Council of Social Services.Google Scholar
  28. Hannah-Moffat, K. (2001). Punishment in disguise: Penal governance and the federal imprisonment of women in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heiner, B., & Tyson, S. (2017). Feminism and the carceral state: Gender-responsive justice, community accountability, and the epistemology of antiviolence. Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, 3(1). Article 3. Scholar
  31. Huggins, J. (1998). Sister girl: The writings of an Aboriginal activist and historian. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.Google Scholar
  32. Johnston, H., & Lio, S. (1998). Introduction: Collective behavior and social movements in the postmodern age—Looking backward to look forward. Sociological Perspectives, 41(3), 453–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kilgore, J. (2014). Repackaging mass incarceration. Accessed 4 August 2016.
  34. Kilroy, D., Barton, P., Quixley, S., George, A., & Russell, E. (2013). Decentring the prison: Abolitionist approaches to working with criminalised women. In B. Carlton & M. Segrave (Eds.), Women exiting prison: Critical essays on gender, post-release support and survival (pp. 156–180). Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Land, C. (2015). Decolonizing solidarity: Dilemmas and directions for supporters of Indigenous struggles. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  36. Law, V. (2009). Resistance behind bars: The struggles of incarcerated women. Oakland, CA: PM Press.Google Scholar
  37. LeBaron, G., & Roberts, A. (2010). Toward a feminist political economy of capitalism and carcerality. Signs, 36(1), 19–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Loyd, J., Mitchelson, M., & Burridge, A. (2012). Beyond walls and cages: Prisons, borders, and global crisis. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lynn, P., & Armstrong, G. (1996). From Pentonville to Pentridge: A history of prisons in Victoria. Melbourne: State Library of Victoria.Google Scholar
  40. Mason, K. G. (1982, 22 September). Coroner, investigation into the death of Mary E Catilo, Clelia T Vigano and Danielle Wright, transcript of public hearing, Coroners Court of Victoria.Google Scholar
  41. Mathiesen, T. (1974). The politics of abolition. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  42. Mathiesen, T. (2000). Prisons on trial (2nd ed.). Winchester: Waterside Press.Google Scholar
  43. McCulloch, J., & George, A. (2009). Naked power: Strip searching in women’s prisons. In J. McCulloch & P. Scraton (Eds.), The violence of incarceration (pp. 107–123). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Meiners, E. R. (2007). Right to be hostile: Schools, prisons, and the making of public enemies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Meiners, E. R. (2016). For the children? Protecting innocence in a carceral age. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  46. Meiners, E. R., & Shaylor, C. (2013). Resisting gendered carceral landscapes. In B. Carlton & M. Segrave (Eds.), Women exiting prison: Critical essays on gender, post-release support and survival (pp. 181–199). Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Moran, D., Turner, J., & Schliehe, A. K. (2017). Conceptualizing the carceral in carceral geography. Progress in Human Geography, 42(5), 666–686. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moreton-Robinson, A. (2000). Talkin’ up to the white woman: Indigenous women and feminism. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.Google Scholar
  49. Piché, J., & Larsen, M. (2010). The moving targets of penal abolitionism: ICOPA, past, present and future. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice, 13(4), 391–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Richie, B. E. (2012). Arrested justice: Black women, violence, and America’s prison nation. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Roseneil, S. (1995). Disarming patriarchy: Feminism and political action at Greenham. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Ruggiero, V. (2010). Penal abolitionism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Russell, E. (1998). Fairlea: The history of a women’s prison in Australia, 1956–96. Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.Google Scholar
  54. Russell, E., & Carlton, B. (2013). Pathways, race and gender responsive reform: Through an abolitionist lens. Theoretical Criminology, 17(4), 474–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Russell, E. K., & Carlton, B. (2018). Counter-carceral acoustemologies: Sound, permeability and feminist protest at the prison boundary. Theoretical Criminology.
  56. Schept, J. (2015). Progressive punishment: Job loss, jail growth, and the neoliberal logic of carceral expansion. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Scraton, P. (2013). The legacy of Hillsborough: Liberating truth, challenging power. Race & Class, 55(2), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Scraton, P. (2016). Bearing witness to the ‘pain of others’: Researching power, violence and resistance in a women’s prison. International Journal for Crime Justice and Social Democracy, 5(1), 5–20. Scholar
  59. Shaylor, C. (2009). Neither kind nor gentle: The perils of ‘gender responsive justice’. In J. McCulloch & P. Scraton (Eds.), The violence of incarceration (pp. 145–163). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Sim, J. (2006). Tougher than the rest? Men in prison. In Y. Jewkes & H. Johnston (Eds.), Prison readings: A critical introduction to prisons and imprisonment (pp. 109–120). Cullompton: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  61. Sim, J. (2009). Punishment and prisons: Power and the carceral state. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  62. Spade, D. (2011). Normal life: Administrative violence, critical trans politics, and the limits of law. Brooklyn: South End Press.Google Scholar
  63. State of Victoria. (2017). Strengthening connections: Women’s policy for the Victorian corrections system. Melbourne: Victorian Government.Google Scholar
  64. Sudbury, J. (2005). Global lockdown: Race, gender and the prison-industrial complex. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Sudbury, J. (2009). Maroon abolitionists: Black gender-oppressed activists in the anti-prison movement in the US and Canada. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 9(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thuma, E. (2014). Against the ‘prison/psychiatric state’: Anti-violence feminisms and the politics of confinement in the 1970s. Feminist Formations, 26(2), 26–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Thuma, E. (2015). Lessons in self-defense: Gender violence, racial criminalization, and anticarceral feminism. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, 43(3&4), 52–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Whalley, E., & Hackett, C. (2017). Carceral feminisms: The abolitionist project and undoing dominant feminisms. Contemporary Justice Review, 20(4), 456–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminology, School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, School of Humanities and Social SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations