In The 70's, Prisons Were The Institution That "Must End"

an enslaved person breaking themselves free of shackles
Zain Murdock
August 31, 2022

"The institution ... probably must end." "[They] create crime rather than prevent it." "A big waste of money and human life."

These quotes about abolition are from the 1970s. A time, although erased from history, when "prison abolition felt almost inevitable."  Wait, what?

In the 1970s, politicians and judges spent days in prison to see precisely how rough it was. Writers churned out anti-prison books. But these weren’t just any politicians and judges. White conservatives and rich people led the way!

Truthfully, though?

All that attention towards the prison system wouldn't have happened had Black incarcerated people not led massive, bloody revolts! White elites conjured those quotes on the backs of people like Angela Davis, the Attica rebels, and George Jackson.

Since 1970, economic, religious, and political motivations, entangled with anti-Blackness, has skyrocketed mass incarceration. The overall incarcerated population increased by 500%. Between 1990 and 2009, the private prison population increased by about 1,600%. 

But though the 1970s have passed, our opportunity to make radical change hasn't.

Prison abolition is NOT a new or impossible concept. Black incarcerated leaders and other Black abolitionists have always been and STILL are ahead of the curve. Let’s join them in making this abolitionist history repeat itself and this time we will win!

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