Public Books: Spatial Abolition and Disability Justice

This vital addition to carceral, prison, and disability studies draws important new links between deinstitutionalization and decarcerationIn Decarcerating Disability, Liat Ben-Moshe extends these questions about disability justice and design to examine specific, yet widespread, geographies—what she calls “carceral locales.” Charting the history and genealogy of the deinstitutionalization movement—which saw, over two waves through the 1950s and ’60s, almost half a million patients transferred from state-run institutions to community mental-health centers—Ben-Moshe draws lessons for the prison abolitionist movement, showing that abolition is a realistic goal with precedent in disability activism.

Ben-Moshe is also a critical geographer and especially focused on “the ways carceral locales and their histories of closure and abolition are interconnected.” By carceral locales, she is referring to “a variety of enclosures, especially prisons, jails, psychiatric hospitals, and residential institutions for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.” One key lesson is that you cannot understand the socioeconomic framework of cities without grappling with the logic and geographies of incarceration and containment that structure these spaces. As the poet Tongo Eisen-Martin wrote: “My dear, if it is not a city, it is a prison. / If it has a prison, it is a prison. Not a city.”

Read the article at Public Books. 

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