Carceral Non-Profits and the Limits of Prison Reform


  • Zhandarka Kurti Loyola University, Chicago
  • Jarrod Shanahan Governor’s State University


Decarceration, carceral non-profit, criminal justice reform, abolition


Today there is a growing chorus to end mass incarceration ranging from leftists and liberals to some on the right. For abolitionists, decarceration—or the reduction of the prison population—is an important first step in a vision that seeks to do away with the social ills the present criminal justice system simply manages. While some attention has been paid to the growing bi-partisan consensus that acknowledges, at least rhetorically, the need to end mass incarceration, we know very little about one of its key players: criminal justice non-profits. In what follows, we devise a conceptual schema that we term carceral non-profits to interrogate the complex class position of certain non-profit organizations surrounding decarceration and criminal justice reform. We argue that the defining feature of carceral non-profits is their role in steering radical change towards piecemeal liberal reform, and the promotion of carceral expansion under the guise of decarceration. This paper is an attempt to engage with an audience of abolitionist activists and scholars trying to make sense of the shifting terrain of the non-profit industrial complex at the grassroots level.

Author Biography

Jarrod Shanahan, Governor’s State University

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice 


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How to Cite

Kurti, Z., & Shanahan, J. (2021). Carceral Non-Profits and the Limits of Prison Reform. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(6), 597–617. Retrieved from



SI - Carceral Geographies and Policing (eds. Boyce, Massaro & Christian)