In “Abolition Constitutionalism,” which leads off the first issue of Volume 133 of the Harvard Law Review, Dorothy E. Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School argues that prison abolitionists can “reinvigorate abolition constitutionalism” by using the Reconstruction Amendments—Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth—“to further their aims and, in the process, construct a new abolition constitutionalism on the path the building a society without prisons.” Roberts is the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights.
“I wanted to write about prison abolition because I think it’s the most exciting legal development—the idea that we could work toward a society that doesn’t cage human beings and that acknowledges the way in which our current prison system, policing, and capital punishment all originate in slavery and continue to perpetuate an unjust society,” says Roberts.
“As I thought about what’s a constitutional issue that relates to prison abolition,” Roberts says, “I realized there’s been no sustained analysis of the relationship between the U.S. Constitution and the current prison abolition movement. In fact, if anything, many prison abolitionists have rejected using the U.S. Constitution on the grounds that the Constitution itself is an oppressive document that was founded during the slavery era; many also view the Reconstruction Amendments as not really abolishing slavery.”
Read more at Penn Law News.