Feminist philosophers Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap bring theoretical arguments about personhood and moral repair into conversation with the work of activists and the experiences of incarcerated people to make the case that prisons ought to be abolished. They argue that contemporary carceral systems in the United States and Canada fail to treat people as genuine moral agents in ways that also fail victims and their larger communities. Such carceral systems are a form of what Emerick and Yap call “institutionalized moral abandonment”. Instead, they argue that we should create communities of moral solidarity which open up space for wrongdoers to make up for their wrongs.
As part of this argument, the book directly addresses one of the paradigm cases of wrongdoing often used to justify carceral systems: rape. Carceral systems that treat perpetrators of sexual violence as irredeemable monsters both obscure the reality of sexual violence and are harmful to everyone involved.
As an alternative to carceral systems, Emerick and Yap argue for an orientation towards justice that is grounded in moral repair. This incorporates elements of restorative justice, mutual aid, and harm reduction. Instead of advocating for one specific and universal approach, the authors argue for multigenerational collective action that aims to build resilient communities that support the wellbeing of everyone.
Barrett Emerick is an associate professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He works in social and feminist philosophy, moral psychology, and normative ethics. His work is focused primarily on the ways that our inner lives are affected by and contribute to oppressive or liberatory ideologies.
Audrey Yap is a professor at the University of Victoria. Her research and teaching interests are very broad, but most of them fall under the heading of social and feminist philosophy. She has written on gendered violence, research ethics, martial arts, and norms of argumentation, though most of her current work is centred on issues of prison justice. She has taught in local correctional facilities since 2019.
Chapter 1. Easier to Love
Chapter 2. Against Moral Abandonment
Chapter 3. Sexual Violence and Carceral Logic
Chapter 4. Institutionalized Moral Abandonment
Chapter 5. Moral Repair and Restorative Justice
Chapter 6. Repair and Resilience
Chapter 7. Not Giving Up
About the Authors
Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap have written a humanistic book, in the best sense of that term. Their work is rigorous, carefully argued, empirically informed, original, and focused on making life better. They take both responsibility and forgiveness seriously, asking how to heal after harm in a way that respects both the perpetrator and the victim of that harm. This book connects prison abolition, conflict resolution, feminism, and much more into an important new vision of individual and societal transformation.
In this elegant and energetic work, philosophers Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap explore the reach and significance of moral abandonment in human relations. Carefully expanding upon ideas developed by a variety of authors and activists, they gently but firmly urge us to reflect on how often and in what circumstances we ignore or give up on people who, fairly or unfairly, have been accused of wrongdoing.
Emerick and Yap are doing the very best kind of philosophy in this book—accessible, gripping, caring, and grounded in real world concerns. Not Giving Up on People presents a passionate case for empathy, forgiveness and solidarity and encourages readers to imagine how to become their best selves while working together toward more just futures.
Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap make an intellectually and emotionally powerful case for moving from retribution to repair in our response to those who have caused harm. Recognizing our entanglement in each other’s pasts and possibilities, they help us see incarceration as abandonment—the antithesis of holding each other responsible.
Chapter 3, Sexual Violence and Carceral Logic, has been made available for open access.VIEW & DOWNLOAD
Chapter 7, Not Giving Up, has been made available for open access.VIEW & DOWNLOAD