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Abolition is a "political vision that seeks to create a society that imagines ways to address harm and conflict beyond punishment and incarceration. It is about not simply the absence of prisons and policing, but the presence of new infrastructure, social networks and institutions that are not structured through violence, domination, racial capitalism and disposability." -Abolition & Disability Justice Collective [1]
See the prison industrial complex for more on the harm that punitive systems cause.

What could abolition look like? [2]

  • People in other parts of the world rely on prisons and police far less than North Americans and suffer far less harm.
  • "Communities where people have housing, food, education and jobs have the lowest crime rates. The best way to reduce harm is by building safe, healthy communities where people have their basic needs met." - Critical Resistance [3]
  • Instead of calling the police when there is a conflict in our neighborhoods, we can establish community forums and mediation practices to address conflict. 
  • 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." -Mariame Kaba, Beautiful Trouble [4]
  • Opposed to throwing a perpetrator of sexual violence in prison, could we hold the individual perpetrator accountable, support their transformation and meet the needs of the survivors? [5]

How does abolition relate to transformative justice?

Adrienne Maree Brown [6]

"I tend to think of abolition as one result of transformative justice: abolition is the end of prisons; transformative justice is the methods people use to uproot injustice patterns in communities. I tend to think of abolition as a totality, and I think that can be tricky. People set out to abolish slavery and we ended up with the prison industrial complex because while there were surface and policy level shifts, the culture did not shift. That deep underlying racism and classism remains and is now roaring to the surface as we write this. So, while I identify as an abolitionist, I find speaking about the iterative tangible work of transformative justice makes more sense to me now–I don’t simply want the prisons gone, I want a radically different way of interacting with each other to grow."

Mia Mingus [7]

"I understand abolition to be a necessary part of transformative justice because prisons, and the PIC, are major sites of individual and collective violence, abuse, and trauma. However, transformative justice is and must also be a critical part of abolition work because we will need to build alternatives to how we respond to harm, violence, and abuse. Just because we shut down prisons, does not mean that these will stop. Transformative justice has roots in abolition work and is an abolitionist framework, but goes beyond abolishing prisons (and slavery) and asks us to end–and transform the conditions that perpetuate–generational cycles of violence such as rape, sexual assault, child abuse, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, war, genocide, poverty, human trafficking, police brutality, murder, stalking, sexual harassment, all systems of oppression, dangerous societal norms, and trauma."

Amanda Aguilar Shank [8] Interpersonal harm is inevitable. Abolition imagines that "each moment where harm happens is an opportunity to transform relationships and communities, build trust and safety, and grow slowly toward the beautiful people we are meant to be, in the world we deserve." 

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to kenzie@lehub.ca.

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