An America Without These 3 Law Enforcement Systems Wasn't That Long Ago

Barb wire
Zain Murdock
May 5, 2021

Can you imagine the U.S. without prisons? Without immigration detention? Or gun-toting cops? Well, it might not be too hard to imagine – because it actually existed not too long ago! Wait, really?

The first prison in the U.S. wasn’t opened until 1773! Less than 250 years ago. Enslaved Black people were already on American soil. Many prisons across the country didn’t even open until after 1800.

These days, hundreds of people are shot by the police every year, but that wasn’t always the norm. Giving police officers weapons wasn’t the standard until 1896 – only 125 years ago. As technology shifted, more ways were invented to kill us quicker and easier. Semi-automatic pistols weren’t even in use until the 1960s!

24% of people in solitary confinement under one U.S. agency’s jurisdiction are Black – mostly African and Caribbean immigrants. But the U.S. only established Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, in 2003. That’s 18 years ago! ICE is younger than most people reading this.

Just because these systems exist, doesn't mean we have to continue to uphold them. We existed before them and we can thrive without them. In our communities, we should be able to decide what works best and what is actually effective. These systems aren't working for us – it's time for us to build something new!

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