Revised essay #2


Similarities and differences between Angela Davis’ Are prisons obsolete? And Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Golden gulag; Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in globalization.

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Prisons and correctional centers have been existence in time memorials. Prisons have been home for the offenders and the criminals considered dangerous, and their presence a threat to the people around them and the community at large. Over time, there has been an increase in the number of inmates leading to an expansion and equal increase in the number of prisons and correctional centers as well. Significantly, this has led to the practice of social injustices and vices that violate human rights. Prisoners suffer inhuman characters at the hand of the law.
Conversely, prisons have been used as sources of income and benefits by political regimes, leading to many social vices such as corruption, racism, discrimination, and unlawful incarceration. This paper will mainly consider Angela Davis, Are Prisons obsolete and Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition books in matters prison, their similarities and differences based on style, writing techniques, approaches, and arguments. The following are some of the similarities in the books.


The two books both talk about prisons. Both consider imprisonment, deterrence, and detaining as not the best way to solve the increasing rate of crime. Rather they consider detainment and isolation as just a way of administering punishment to the offenders. Gilmore says, “How are prisons supposed to produce stability through controlling what counts as crime?” (Gilmore, 2007). Significantly, the two books highlight the effects of the Prison industrials complex; the use of prisoners by government entities to accrue benefits and interests, cheap labor with a motive of solving political, economic, and social challenges (Gilmore, 2007). Davis Angela and Ruth Gilmore, in their books, campaign against Prison industrial complex and advocate for alternatives based on human development rather than imprisonment.
Another similarity is in the writing style. The expository writing style has been used by both writers. Angela Davis explores expository style in their writing. Though Ruth Gilmore incorporates it at a later stage in her writing, Angela Davis starts her book introduction with the expository style (Davis, 2011). The style is seen in the introductory page 9, paragraph 1 of Angela Davis’s book. They implore argumentative writing styles in their book presentations. Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative writing styles are essential in both books. The two books describe the state of prisons in America and the social injustices associated with imprisonment. Angela Davis describes the state of prisons then, on pages 11 through 15 of the book (Davis, 2011). Angela says, “When I first became involved in anti-prison activism during the late 1960s, I was astounded to learn that there were then close to two hundred thousand people in prison.” (Davis, 2011). Here, the vivid description of the rise of Californian prisons in her context is evident. Likewise, Ruth Gilmore incorporates descriptive style in her writing when describing the rapid growth of Californian prisons between 1982 and 2000 on page 7, paragraph 2. Persuasive writing style tends to persuade the audience to a certain level of thinking and opinion. In the two books, Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore convince the audience towards a prison-free country. The narrative writing style is equally clear in the two books. Ruth Gilmore narrates the bus event in her prologue. The bus used in her prologue is more of a metaphor symbolizing the diverse races, ethnic groups, and people from different walks of life together in the fight for activism (Gilmore, 2007). Ruth says, “One midnight in the middle of April a bus pulled out” (Gilmore, 2007). Majorly the use of a bus here shows the one accord the activists embraced. Angela Davis gives a narrative of her experience in anti-prison activism. She tells of the ordeals encountered and the situations vividly, including statistics.
Likewise, the two writers employ a Marxist tone. This is the feeling of equal treatment and opportunity. The two writers majorly highlight the social injustices in America, especially the Californian prisons. Both Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore advocates for a society with no discrimination and classes whereby every member of the society toil towards achieving a universal good of the society. Gilmore says, “A dream crowd rode for freedom” (Gilmore, 2007). Understandably, this will eradicate class struggles as everybody in the society will be accorded respect, rights, and love irrespective of their ethnic group (Gilmore, 2007). The union in the society, therefore, will significantly reduce class struggles and reduce crime rates. Gradually, there will be no need for prisons as people shall have been united and working towards a common good with no class divisions. Thus, this is seen in Angela Davis book on page 105 under the quote “A decent redistribution of power and income to put out the hidden fire of burning envy that now flames up in crimes of property-both burglary by the poor and embezzlement by the affluent” (Davis, 2011). Equally, Ruth Gilmore advocates for a new kind of state as one of the book’s thesis. This is seen among the ten theses of what is to be done on page 245. She advocates for a reformed kind of state with the people in control of resources. This is a kind of universal ownership of resources. Therefore the two writers use a Marxism tone in the two books.
Generally, the similarities in their arguments instill and creates a sense of awareness in the minds of their audiences. It is not just a coincidence but a great wake-up to all and an eye-opener to the audience, pointing out the social injustices taking place politically, socially, and economically concerning prisons (Davis, 2011). However, there are significant differences between the two books. The following are some of the differences and the effect of the differences on the tone, approaches, and audience.


Gilmore Ruth dominantly uses analogy as a way of expressing her concerns, while Angela Davis, in most cases, uses plain explanations. Gilmore Wilson Ruth compares most of her writing scenarios with passengers bordering buses. At the first bus in the prologue, 40 women, men, and children have boarded and are driven with their quest for freedom. It is a combination of white, brown, yellow, red, and black people symbolizing diversity (Gilmore, 2007). People of different languages, colors, and races, disabled and able, all joined in the fight for freedom to eventually free their relatives, enduring endless sentences in prisons. The people on the bus are activists fighting against imprisonment and long-serving sentences. Together, they believe they represent the interest of many. The second bus is seen in the epilogue. Gilmore says that in the year 2001, another bus was bordered, this time with a lesser number of people in South Central Los Angeles journeying to California to bring to a halt the rapid building of prisons and sensitize people on matters of activism (Gilmore, 2007). This is an analogy comparing the activists with bus passengers; different people from different places and ethnic backgrounds but united by one course. On the other hand, Angela Davis gives direct explanations with very few analogies in her writing. This is seen in the introduction part; prison reform or prison abolition? Where she plainly starts off her explanation.
Another difference is based on the concern of the two writers. Though both writers advocate for a universal cause, that is, the abolition of prisons, there are significant differences in their concerns. Gilmore is primarily concerned with the rapid growth of Californian prisons and campaigns boldly against the view and use of prisons to solve economic, social, and political problems. She says, “The practice of putting people in cages for part or all of their lives is a central feature in the development of secular states” (Gilmore, 2007). This is on page 7, paragraph 3. The book mostly looks at the trade that is carried out by government agencies, gaining from prison sectors. Conversely, Angela Davis’s main concern is on the relation between crime and punishment and the incarceration of prisoners. Ruth asks a question “why were people so quick to assume that locking away an increasingly large proportion of the United Nation population would help those who live in the free world feel safer and more secure?” (Davis, 2011). This is on page 15, the first paragraph, line 4. Generally, Angela Davis is more concerned with the relation of crime to punishment and seeks for alternative systems to handle prisoners.
The approaches of the two writers are different too. When providing the solution and approaches on what is to be done to achieve a prison-free country, Gilmore looks at it as everybody’s responsibility to achieve the desired state. She says in her what to be done sector page 242, paragraph 2, that if all influence things, places, and own selves but not under or own preference, then it will not be difficult to achieve change (Gilmore, 2007). She also advocates making power rather than taking power, page 248, point 10. When different capacities are combined, it usually brings change. On the contrary, Angela Davis advocates for prison alternatives that are letting go of the mindset that prisons are lonesome places with severe punishments for reform (Davis, 2011). Instead, she pushes for decarceration and other options to imprisonment. This is on page 107, paragraph 2, and line 8 of the book. Angela sees schools as the best option for prisons.
In my imagination, if Gilmore Ruth and Angela Davis were brought to a dialogue, most of their responses in matters concerning prison and abolishment would be in harmony. This is due to the vast similarities in their books addressing similar matters. Perhaps a little disagreement would only arise in the approaches they consider vital and as a remedy to the condition. Otherwise, there will be a total agreement from both sides on matters concerning prison abolition.
In conclusion, the differences between the two books mostly affect the audience. Gilmore tends to give her audience much data and information, mostly in terms of numbers and real figures in terms of diagrams and the associated maps. Gilmore is trying to be unique as compared to Davis, who does not incorporate the use of diagrams. This ranges from the writing techniques involved, the tone, and the approaches incorporated. Majorly it is all on the audience to make significant conclusions based on the validity of the approaches of the two books. The use of analogy by Ruth Gilmore brings a vivid comparison and understanding to the audience. The two writers both end their books with possible recommendations and amicable solutions to eradicating prisons. Likewise, the different concern by the two writers does not raise an eyebrow to the audience since they are geared towards a common goal, prison industrial complex abolition.


Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing California (Vol. 21). Univ of California Press.

Davis, A. Y. (2011). Are prisons obsolete?. Seven Stories Press.


Similarities and differences between Angela Davis’ Are prisons obsolete? And Ruth

Wilson Gilmore’s Golden gulag; Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in globalization.

Student’s Name

Institutional Affiliation

Course Code

Due Date


Similarities and differences between Angela Davis’ Are prisons obsolete? And Ruth
Wilson Gilmore’s Golden gulag; Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in globalization.

Student’s Name
Institutional Affiliation
Course Code
Due Date

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