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A Brief Case for Prison Abolition

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pris•on ab•o•li•tion


1. The dismantling of the jail system; the finish of coerced capture as punishment
2. The construction of alternatives to jail and of a universe that disincentivizes violence


“While there is a reduce category we am in it, and while there is a rapist element, we am of it, and while there is a essence in prison, we am not free.” —Socialist Eugene V. Debs, in a matter to the justice after being convicted of mutiny in 1918.

Don’t Prisons Keep People Safe? 

Whatever politicians competence say, abolitionists disagree that the stream prison-industrial formidable isn’t designed to solve crime—after all, three-quarters of people expelled from jail are rearrested within 5 years—but rather to room the poor, drug dependant and mentally ill. And there’s a secular component as well: Black Americans are around 5 times some-more likely than whites to find themselves behind bars, mostly for teenager offenses, while many who poise a bigger hazard to multitude get Oscars, golden parachutes and seats in Congress.

Why Not Just Make Prisons Better?

It’s loyal that not all prisons are as sadistic as Uncle Sam’s: In Norway, for example, the jailed wear street clothes, collect berries, prepare dishes and have relations leisure to pierce about the grounds. But many jail abolitionists trust that depriving humans of autocracy is essentially cruel. Social scientists such as Gresham M. Sykes—not to discuss many jailed people themselves—have prolonged documented how the detriment of one’s place in society, earthy reserve and liberty can means serious long-term psychological problems.

Still, Isn’t Prison Abolition Utopic?

Utopic need not be a slur, but the thought is reduction out there than it may seem. As Angela Davis explains in Are Prisons Obsolete?, seizure only became a catch-all punishment in what’s now the United States around the American Revolution. Other means of dispute fortitude aren’t just possible, but the chronological norm. 

Okay, So … What Do We Do With All The Criminals?

The abolitionist first competence plea the word “criminal,” watching that it’s mostly racialized, and call to decriminalize “crimes” like drug use, for example. They competence also disciple full employment, well-funded open education, drug diagnosis programs and adequate mental healthcare, all of which help residence causes of illegal activity; digging out the social and mercantile roots of gendered assault would be essential as well. Prison abolitionist organizations such as Critical Resistance support initiatives like village gardens to build social cohesion. And while instances of rape and murder won’t disappear entirely, societies worldwide are experimenting with physic justice: non-carceral efforts at repair mistreat finished to people and communities.

This is partial of “The Big Idea,” a monthly series charity brief introductions to progressive theories, policies, collection and strategies that can help us prognosticate a universe over capitalism. For recent In These Times coverage of jail abolition, see, “Trial by Peace Circle: How a Chicago Community Is Pursuing Jail-Free Justice,” “To End Mass Incarceration, We Must Rethink How We Respond to Violence” and “Meet the LGBTQ Prison Abolitionists Leading the Way to a Better World.”



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