How just is the justice system?

What is the relationship of the criminal justice system to social justice? Scholars invested in gender equality, decolonization, anti-racism, and social justice argue that retributive models of justice that emphasize crime and punishment exacerbate inequality. In fact, critical prison studies scholars in the United States argue that the prison system is a continuation of slavery. Of the Canadian prison system, political theorist Robert Nichols argues that incarceration is a fundamental part of the settler-colonial project of land theft. Do you think working towards social justice requires re-thinking prisons? Why or why not? These are the questions we would like you to discuss for this module.


  1. Reflect on your thinking about prisons: where did you learn about prisons and their role in achieving justice? Analyze your views: do retributive, restorative, or transformative approaches to justice inform them? How has this lesson challenged your views? Explain how or how not by referencing specific course resources and lessons. Explain all concepts you use.
  2. Do you think working toward social justice requires re-thinking prisons? Why or why not? In your response, refer to the reading by Angela Davis and examples from other assigned resources from the course. Make sure to define all concepts you use.

Remember to check into eClass to submit upcoming activities and assignments, participate in the discussion board, and communicate with your instructor.


“13th.” 2020. Produced by Netflix, April 17, 2020. Youtube video. 

Bakare, Lanre. 2020. “Angela Davis: ‘We knew that the role of the police was to protect white supremacy’.” The Guardian, June 15, 2020. 

Bellrichard, Chantelle. 2020. “Over-Representation of Indigenous People in Federal Prisons Reaches ‘Disturbing’ Historic High.” CBC News, January 21, 2020. 

Brodie, Janine, ed. 2018. Contemporary Inequalities and Social Justice in Canada. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Chartrand, Larry, and Kanatase Horn. 2016. “A Report on the Relationship Between Restorative Justice and Indigenous Legal Traditions in Canada.” The Department of Justice Canada. October, 2016. 

Crawford, Lucas and Nichols, Robert. 2012. “Rethinking Hate Crimes: The Hard Work of Creating Social Equity” In Beyond the Queer Alphabet: Conversations on Gender, Sexuality & Intersectionality, edited by M. S. Smith and F. Jaffer, 57-60. Malinda S. Smith and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Davis. Angela Y. 2003. “Prison reforms or Prison Abolition” In Are Prisons Obsolete?, 9-21. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Generation Five. 2007. “Toward Transformative Justice, A Liberatory Approach to Child Sexual Abuse and Other Forms of Intimate and Community Violence.” Generation Five, June, 2007. 

John Howard Society of Canada. 2018. “Financial Facts on Canadian Prisons.” Updated August 23, 2018. 

John Howard Society of Canada. 2020. “Data on Canada’s Prison System.” Updated January 25, 2020. 

Nichols, Robert. 2014. “The Colonialism of Incarceration” Radical Philosophy Review, 17 (2): 435-55. 

OCI (Office of the Correctional Investigator). 2012. “A Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries Final Report.” Updated February 28, 2014. 

“The Case for Prison Abolition: Ruth Wilson Gilmore on COVID-19, Racial Capitalism & Decarceration.” 2020. Produced by Democracy Now!, May 5, 2020. Youtube video. 

“What is Transformative Justice?.” 2020. Produced by Barnard Center for Research on Women, March 11, 2020. Youtube video. 

World Prison Brief. n.d. “World Prison Brief Data, Northern America, Canada.”