The Case for Abolition

In the wake of mass uprisings across America due to police killings of Black Americans, the public has appealed to reformist strategies to address the violence. However, the problem is not police training. The problem is not diversity in law enforcement. The problem is not that law enforcement needs to be reformed at all. The problem is policing itself —  police violence is a reflection of a large and brutal system of racial and social caste known as Capitalism.

Policing and incarceration does nothing to address crime. Crime is manufactured by larger socio-economic structures that are ignored when we consign human beings entrenched in poverty to prison. As Angela Davis says, “Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages”. 

Stolen land and exploited black bodies were the inception of American capital. Subsequent laws written by the American settler-state are designed to benefit and maintain this industry of exploitation. Police enforce these laws and are therefore agents of capital. Their jobs are to protect and serve property, not people. Laws like the Stand Your Ground law simultaneously boosted gun sales while exonerating people like George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Laws like the Three-strikes law, which mandate offenders with two prior convictions and a violent felony charge to serve life in prison, generate wealth for the private prison industry that profits on criminalization. In a country where incarcerations rates and crime rates increase and decrease wholly independent of one another, the steady investments in policing and prisons in America has become a multi-billion dollar business. The American criminal justice system was designed by a country that profits from criminalizing socio-economic issues it is directly responsible for creating. 

In a world without prisons or police, transgressions that we understand as “criminal” are met by a community with questions of need. Panhandling, drug dealing, drug consumption, and gun violence are all issues that reflect a need that cannot be addressed when America continues to invest in transforming these issues into profit.

Prisons must be abolished, policing must be dismantled, and capitalism must die.

Author Suggested Readings

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Are Prisons Obsolete? By Angela Davis

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale

Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California by Ruth Wilson Gilmore

1 Comment

  1. In reading this article I am thinking Haskell could look at curricula to inform students of crime on the reservation, P.L. 280 states, and other courses relevant to the Indian student.

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