About Abby's Work

Abby Cunniff studies environmental justice and California prisons, from the physical infrastructure of prisons to the labor that incarcerated people carry out in public works and conservation. Their public scholarship has focused on pressing issues that incarcerated people face due to prison conditions and climate change, while their academic work has focused on understanding prisons as part of larger structures of climate adaptation labor and carceral geographies. 

Their dissertation project is a labor history of California‚Äôs prison fire camp program from 1970-2020. It asks under what conditions incarcerated workers became the "infantry" of wildfire response in the state and how racial capitalism shaped this program into a climate change response workforce in the late twentieth century. This contemporary history opens up critical inquisitions about labor and power within climate planning and environmental change.