Police and Prison Abolition

REMINDER WEEK 50  – JUNE 6, 2021

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Hi friends!

Just wanted to send a quick reminder meeting that tonight at 7 PM EST we will be meeting with leadership at Abolition Apostles and Notes from the Village.

Abolition Apostles is a national abolitionist jail and prison ministry founded in the most incarcerated place in the world – New Orleans, Louisiana. Their mission is: “to offer moral and spiritual support to members of the incarcerated community, and contribute to the destruction of the prison-industrial complex through solidarity, prophetic witness, and community organizing inside and outside of prison.  We are a Christian ministry, but it is not necessary to be a Christian in order to participate.”  (full disclosure: Emily doesn’t consider herself a Christian but is the South Carolina State Coordinator for Abolition Apostles and she’s not alone, there are multiple faiths represented by state coordinators, working group members, and especially by the people we support inside. Don’t let the word “apostle” keep you from learning more). 

Even if you’re not sure where you land on abolition yet, we encourage you to join us in conversation with people who intimately understand the criminal punishment system and how it harms our communities (and to read this remarkable essay by Derecka Purnell beforehand!). 

Access Tonight’s Meeting Here
Meeting ID: 953 989 3647
Passcode: ABOLITION
We will be talking about incarceration, how to become a pen pal, commissary support, and reentry. Join us tonight and bring a friend! Even if you’re not sure about becoming a penpal, we encourage you to come listen in.  

WHY WE ARE HOSTING AN ABOLITIONIST GROUP

We know some of you are probably new to/uncomfortable with conversations about police and prison abolition and Emily wanted to share a little bit of her why here:

Abolition is about creating the conditions where the violence of policing and incarceration are not only nonexistent but unnecessary. It’s about diverting resources away from the multibillion dollar industry of prisons and surveillanceand into the communities most harmed by it. It’s not just about dismembering the physical structures of cinderblock and steel cages (though woooo nellie, that is on Emily’s list), about cultivating communities that have the resources to support people who have experienced trauma, the leading cause of “criminal” behavior. It’s about seeing “crime” as harm, and addressing harms between the parties most affected instead of an otherwise disinterested third party (the state) that has a vested financial interest in keeping people locked up. 

I believe in abolition because it’s pragmatic – studies show that people who have caused harm being met with restorative, community-based responses, rather than incarceration, report far lower rates of re-committing such harmsand far greater rates of victim/survivor satisfaction with their own trauma processing. I believe in abolition because trauma begets more trauma: prisons are traumatic (understatement of the century), a family member being lost to prison is traumatic, the financial hold that the prison industry has over a person with incarcerated loved ones’ life is traumatic, and trauma is incarceration’s(and addiction’s!!! and death’s!!) biggest risk factor.

I believe in abolition because I don’t want our federal government spending $29 billion on police, $7 billion on prisons, and $15 billion on courts every year. I believe in abolition because I don’t want my home state spending $2.128 billion on policing and corrections each year. I believe in abolition because I want my tax dollars going to schools and hospitals and roads and clean water and firefighters and public libraries and publicly available food. I believe in abolition because it is fiscally conservative. 

I believe in abolition because I believe in historical honesty: we know that modern policing hast roots in slave patrols. We know that the modern prison has direct ties to the plantation. We know that the thirteenth amendment prohibits involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime. We know that so many laws were structured with the intention of Black and brown people being sentenced at higher rates, for longer sentences. We know that there are multiple corporate interests intersecting at the heart of these cruelties. 

I believe in abolition because what we’re doing now doesn’t work! We know “crime rate” data is intentionally skewed to support more police spending. We know that prisons are unsafeunsanitary, and unfit to host human life. We know that those conditions make it nearly impossible to “rehabilitate”. We know that upon release from prison, formerly incarcerated folks suffer a host of collateral consequences making everything from housing to employment to healthcare extremely difficult to obtain. We know that all of these things are reversible policy choices. 

I believe in abolition because the work of policing, being a correctional officer, or any working in the criminal punishment system is traumatic. Expecting the worst out of everyone you interact with is traumatic. Interacting with warrior cops is traumatic. Repeatedly seeing people having the worst days of their lives because of an issue that started as something benign is traumatic. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Abolition creates a world where people who are interested in policing to “help people” are directed to tangible ways to do that (hello, literally so many valuable caretaking jobs! hello, food banks! hello, other kinds of first responders!), and people who use their badges to terrorize are kept out of the equation and out of positions where they can do such harm. I believe in abolition because I know individual officers aren’t the issue: the apparatus of policing (and its reciprocal relationship with a criminal legal system that needs it to justify its own existence) is.

I believe in abolition because I believe in presence. I believe in knowing our neighbors. I believe in radical compassion. I believe that every single crime on the books could be rewritten to have a more effective response than the laziest response I can think of: locking someone away for years of needless torture and disincentivizing their apology through the entire court process leading to that point. I believe in abolition because I believe in us. 

Come join us tonight and learn more about this school of thought and the very real human beings at the heart of it. Creating relationships with people behind bars is step zero as we work toward a world where one day police and prisons are obsolete. Until then, we can do small (huge) things to keep us safer. 

See you at 7 PM EST!

In solidarity,
Ellie, Emily, and Hayden

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