The Growing Movement For Prison Abolition

Alcatraz prison cells
William Anderson
April 30, 2020

Dating back to slavery, people like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Soujourner Truth were abolitionists seeking to abolish slavery. 

Emancipation happened. But slavery took on a new form - which calls for a new response.

Prison abolitionists are activists, thinkers, and community members who want to completely get rid of prisons and jails!

While some may think that’s absurd, there’s a direct line between slavery, Jim Crow apartheid laws, and the prison system as we know it. Prisons today are NOT what many think.

Since enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas, racists put laws into place targeting Black people for arrest, imprisonment and, once again, forced labor. As the U.S. Constitution makes clear, the prison system is used as an extension, or replacement, of slavery.

This is the foundation of abolitionism.

Prison abolitionists like Angela Davis, George Jackson, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore also challenge the idea that prisons actually work. Even the U.S. Department of Justice agrees that imprisonment does NOT reduce crime! It’s also cruel, dehumanizing, and often torturous.

Since interventions like reducing poverty, access to living wages, and reducing inequality DO reduce crime, abolitionists make a sound argument for changing our thinking.

In order to eliminate prisons, you have to create a society where prisons are unnecessary. To do that, everyone needs access to resources like healthcare, education, and housing, and we need to build community-based responses to crime. 

As we build this society, we get closer to liberation!

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