Abolition is the removal of the incarceration system. Prison abolition is the removal of prisons from society, and if there are no prisons, there are no cops, no prison guards. It is doing away with the entire system so that something new, something loving, can take its place.
The incarceration system is inherently abusive. There is no self autonomy in prison. There is no love. It is widely accepted that various types of abuse, whether emotional/physical/sexual, will be part of the punishment.
In addition, the incarceration system is a way to enforce white supremacy. You can see this in the 13th amendment, which legalizes slavery as punishment for a crime. You can see this in the history of the police force. You can see this in the continued targeting of BIPOC communities by the state, which is reflected in prison statistics.
Prisons disenfranchise whoever is imprisoned. Many states do not allow felons to vote, and even if voting rights are not necessarily at stake, a history in prison makes it difficult to find a job, which encourages various cycles of violence (poverty, homelessness, etc). It is in the oppressive state’s best interests to keep and increase the prisoner count, and this goes double for private prisons who line their wallets with imprisoned people.
To sum up: no prisons, no cops. It is the only way we can be free. It is the only way we can be safe. It is the only way we can thrive.
My personal journey towards abolition can be found here and here.
Texts I have found personally helpful:
- Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis
- Aching For Abolition by Camonghne Felix (cw sexual assault)
- Beyond Survival Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Editor) Ejeris Dixon (Editor)
- All About Love by bell hooks
- Life Comes From It: Navajo Justice Concepts by Robert Yazzie
These texts really demonstrated to me that abolition can start with your personal life, with the choices you make at home and at your job if you have one and in whatever social circles you occupy.
I’m not saying anything new that hasn’t been said by others who have been living this life for far longer than I have. If you haven’t considered a life without prisons, without cops, then I encourage you to do so. It doesn’t have to be this way simply because it is what we are most familiar with.
Remember, this incarceration system is new. It is a product of colonialism. I like Yazzie’s text because it demonstrates that this has never been the only way. It is simply, right now, the dominant way, and it can be taken down, just as it has been built up.