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Decarcerating Disability

Prison abolition and decarceration are increasingly debated, but it is often without taking into account the largest exodus of people from carceral facilities in the twentieth century: the closure of disability institutions and psychiatric hospitals. Decarcerating Disability provides a much-needed corrective, combining a genealogy of deinstitutionalization with critiques of the current prison system.


Liat Ben-Moshe provides groundbreaking case studies that show how abolition is not an unattainable goal but rather a reality, and how it plays out in different arenas of incarceration—antipsychiatry, the field of intellectual disabilities, and the fight against the prison-industrial complex. Ben-Moshe discusses a range of topics, including why deinstitutionalization is often wrongly blamed for the rise in incarceration; who resists decarceration and deinstitutionalization, and the coalitions opposing such resistance; and how understanding deinstitutionalization as a form of residential integration makes visible intersections with racial desegregation. By connecting deinstitutionalization with prison abolition, Decarcerating Disability also illuminates some of the limitations of disability rights and inclusion discourses, as well as tactics such as litigation, in securing freedom.


Decarcerating Disability’s rich analysis of lived experience, history, and culture helps to chart a way out of a failing system of incarceration.

Book cover of Decarcerating Disability by Liat Ben-Moshe. This cover shows a green bullseye shape shattering into pieces in the middle. The cover text reads Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition with Liat's name in the top right hand corner.

"Decarcerating Disability is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and dismantling the interlocking systems of incarceration that shape the contemporary political landscape and shorten so many lives. Liat Ben-Moshe shows how the effectiveness of abolitionist work has been limited by the marginalization of disability and anti-sanism analysis and advocacy. She not only exposes how much contemporary abolitionists have to learn from historical struggles for deinstitutionalization, she also demonstrates a more truly intersectional method of abolitionist scholar-activism that we urgently need. This book is both a corrective intervention and a path-breaking tool for developing better strategy toward the world that those who seek liberation are fighting to build."

— Dean Spade, Seattle University School of Law

"In Decarcerating Disability, Liat Ben-Moshe carefully and incisively models an intersectional approach to abolition grounded in feminist, queer, and crip of color critique. Moving beyond demands for inclusion and critiques of overrepresentation, Ben-Moshe makes a powerful and persuasive case for a disability studies that recognizes state violence as central to its work and the carceral industrial complex as a site for queer coalitions for racial and disability justice. In so doing, she paves the way for thinking not only disability and disability studies differently, but also liberation itself."


—  Alison Kafer, University of Texas at Austin

Book Awards

Honorable mention (runner up):

NWSA (National Women Studies Association) Alison Piepmeier Book Prize;

Society for the Study of Social Problems' C. Wright Mills Book Award;

American Studies Association’s Lora Romero First Book Prize

Order Information

To order directly from the press and get a 40% discount, click here  and enter code  MN89530 or MNMLA23. 

Please also consider purchasing the book from from your local independent bookstore store with Indie Bound.

Audiobook is here! 

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