Creating Solutions Is About Answering Questions Prisons Never Asked
I was 19 when I went to prison, but prison isn’t what healed me
This article is part of Abolition for the People, a series brought to you by a partnership between Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, a Medium publication for and about the lives of Black and Brown men. The series, which comprises 30 essays and conversations over four weeks, points to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons are not solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems — and calls for a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.
The first and only time my name was mentioned in the New York Times was in connection with the 2001 headline “Man Found Guilty in Killings at Muffin Shop in Manhattan.” My name was buried in the sixth paragraph. The headline was meant for my co-defendant, but I was the 19-year-old villainous co-star in a cast of crooks who were hoping there was a savior like Viola Davis’ Anna Keating who could help us get away with (felony) murder. The same year of this headline, Critical Resistance, an organization founded on the politics of abolition, held its second conference in Manhattan.
Critical Resistance was all about abolishing the prison industrial complex, back when only super leftists understood the word “abolition” in a context other than its association with Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth. I wonder what some of the founders of the organization — notables like Angela Davis, Rose Braz, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore — thought about those of us in that New York Times article. My co-defendants and I are the case studies that skeptics of abolition parade out as examples of the impracticality of abolition.
If you abolish the police and prisons, what are you going to do about people like Marlon Peterson? What does accountability look like for him? Are you suggesting that he remain in the community, and possibly (felony) murder more people?
Referring to myself in the third person isn’t my narcissism taking the wheel. It is me, a self-proclaimed abolitionist, asking aloud the questions I ask myself every time I attend a shooting response for a murdered…