ROUGH DRAFT: The first version of your rough draft should be prepared and submitted via our Blackboard page by noon on Friday, March 26 (you can submit it at any time before this). Your first draft should be typed and must be at least 4 double-spaced pages in length (with margins of no more than one inch). You can submit your rough draft as a Word, PDF, or Google Docs document. Any rough drafts submitted after Friday, March 26 will be considered late and penalized accordingly.

PEER REVIEW OF YOUR FIRST DRAFT: For your first draft of this essay, you will be receiving comments from one of your fellow students in this class (I will be giving you extensive comments on your final draft but won’t be making individual comments on the first draft). You will also be responsible for writing up comments for one of your fellow students. As soon as you submit your first draft, I will send it to the student who will act as your peer reviewer, and you will in turn receive a paper from a fellow student to comment on. You will receive comments from your peer reviewer within two days and also must submit your own comments within two days. So the sooner you submit your first draft, the sooner you will receive your comments.

FINAL DRAFT: The final draft of your essay will be due via our Blackboard page by noon on Friday, April 9 (you can submit it at any time before this). Please submit your final draft via Blackboard; you can submit it as a Word, PDF, or Google Docs document. The final version of your essay must be at least 5 double-spaced typed pages in length. Any final drafts submitted after April 9 will be considered late and penalized accordingly. I will be grading this draft and will offer substantive comments, which you can use to revise and resubmit the essay in order to raise your grade, if you choose to do so.


In her book Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis makes a strong and, some would say, controversial argument regarding the need to abolish prisons and replace them with “a constellation of alternative strategies and institutions” (107). To make this argument, Davis uses a number of different approaches, including statistics, scholarly research, quotes from different experts, historical sources, and her own personal experience and the personal experiences of others, among other techniques. Your focus in this essay will be on what Angela Davis says in her argument, but also, just as important, how she expresses these things as a writer.

Your assignment is to write about some of the techniques used by Davis to build her argument; how exactly she brings these different techniques together to make a larger argument in the book; and whether or not you think she uses each of these techniques effectively and as a result makes a convincing argument.

After your introductory paragraph, you should begin your essay by briefly summarizing what you see as Davis’ main argument in Are Prisons Obsolete? (this summary should be no longer than one paragraph long). Next, in the body of your essay, you should cite, explain, and analyze at least four specific quotes from her book, looking in detail at the ways that she builds her argument in each of these passages. Here are some questions you can think about asking for your analysis:

  • How does Angela Davis use quotations from other books and articles?
  • How does she use information from other experts?
  • How does she use first-hand accounts of her own experiences, or the personal experiences of others?
  • How does she use statistics?
  • How does she use historical information?
  • How does she use the arguments of those who might disagree with her?
  • With each of these approaches, be sure to also answer the question: Does she use this approach or technique effectively?

As you move towards your conclusion, you should start to answer an important question: Do you find Angela Davis’ overall argument in Are Prisons Obsolete? to be effective? Why or why not? Be specific and give examples that will help you support your argument.

In other words, I will expect you to work closely with specific passages from Davis’ book throughout this essay, but I also want you to bring in your own point of view regarding how effectively she uses different techniques, and especially how persuasive you find her argument to be as a result.

While your essay should focus primarily on Are Prisons Obsolete? you should also bring at least one of the other texts we will be reading during the first weeks of this class into the conversation. These texts are:

  • Mariame Kaba, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police”
  • Angela Wright, “How Armed Police Officers on Campus Have Become a Ubiquitous Part of American College Life”
  • Rachel Kushner, “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind”

There are a number of ways that you might use one or more of these other texts in your essay. For example, you might find points from one or more of these articles that agree with and support Angela Davis’ argument; on the other hand, you might find points from one or more articles that disagree with and contradict Davis’ book. You might also compare and contrast some of the approaches taken by these other writers with Davis’ approach; in making this comparison, you can give your point of view about which of these readings you found to be most effective, and why.

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