Why Ruth Wilson Gilmore Wants to Abolish Prisons

April 18, 2019

The New York Times Magazine features The Graduate Center professor and her decades-long advocacy to end incarceration.

Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Earth and Environmental Sciences, Psychology) was profiled in a New York Times Magazine feature about her three decades of advocating for abolishing prisons, which she sees as “catchall solutions to social problems.”
Gilmore, a renowned scholar and influential figure in the prison-abolition movement, is quoted in the article as questioning why society employs cruelty in its penal system: “Instead of asking whether anyone should be locked up or go free, why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?”
The article, “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind,” will appear in the April 21 print edition of the magazine. Prison abolition is “both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care — all the elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life,” the article says.
Early in her career, Gilmore created and developed the concept of carceral geography, “which examines the complex interrelationships among landscape, natural resources, political economy, infrastructure and the policing, jailing, caging and controlling of populations,” the article says. “In the years since, Gilmore has shaped the thinking of many geographers, as well as generations of graduate students and activists.”
Gilmore is the author of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007).