So You’re Thinking About Becoming an Abolitionist
Yes, an alternative is possible. Here’s a roadmap.
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.
Today, more people are discussing and contemplating prison abolition than ever before. Decades of collective organizing have brought us to this moment: Some are newly aware that prisons, policing, and the criminal punishment system in general are racist, oppressive, and ineffective.
However, some might be wondering, is abolition too drastic? Can we really get rid of prisons and policing all together? The short answer: We can. We must. We are.
Prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition is a political vision, a structural analysis of oppression, and a practical organizing strategy. While some people might think of abolition as primarily a negative project — “Let’s tear everything down tomorrow and hope for the best” — PIC abolition is a vision of a restructured society in a world where we have everything we need: food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water, and more. Things that are foundational to our personal and community safety.
Every vision is also a map. As freedom fighter Kwame Ture taught us, “When you see people call themselves revolutionary always talking about destroying, destroying, destroying but never talking about building or creating, they’re not revolutionary. They do not understand the first thing about revolution. It’s creating.” PIC abolition is a positive project that focuses, in part, on building a society where it is possible to address harm without relying on structural forms of oppression or the violent systems that increase it.
Some people may ask, “Does this mean that I can never call the cops if my life is in serious danger?” Abolition does not…