10 ways to end prisons

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10 ways to end prisons

A world without prisons and police seems perhaps a long way away, but there are a lot of things we can change to build a safer world. Amy Hall writes about some of them.


Protesters call for abolition of the police in New York, June 2020. KEVIN RC WILSON/ALAMY

1 Stop making poverty a crime

The law targets the poor and marginalized people the most around things like homelessness and theft. In Africa alone, at least 42 countries have laws on ‘small crimes’ such as loitering or being a ‘vagabond’. The laws are often from the times of colonial rule. In England and Wales, a survey found that a quarter of prisoners were homeless before they went to prison and over two-thirds were unemployed.

2 Meeting basic needs

Poverty, inequality, and violence are some of the most reasons for crime. So why not think about how we can meet people’s needs for safety, good food, housing, education, and healthcare? Abolition is about building a society where prisons and the police are not necessary because we have new ways to stop violence.

3 Make drugs legal

We think that around the world 2.5 million people are in prison for drug crimes and also over 22 per cent for having drugs for personal use. And we think 1.6 million have crimes related to drugs. But prison doesn’t stop people using or selling drugs. We should free these people, and spend the money on treatment programmes and safety, not punishment.

4 Stop sex work being a crime

Research in many countries shows that because sex work is a crime, we see more violence against sex workers. People think they are ‘easy targets… and will usually not get help from the police’. It also means that sex workers are more at risk of violence from the police and find it difficult to organize themselves collectively. Convictions put them in the criminal justice system and make it harder for them to find other jobs.

5 Fewer prisons

More and bigger prisons are not the answers to crowded prisons. Extra prison space means more prisoners. We can support campaigns to stop building prisons and stop making them bigger. This includes prisons by other names, like migrant detention centres. We can ask to shut them, and to free prisoners.

6 Defund and reduce the numbers of police

The police are the way in to the criminal justice system. More police means more prisoners. We need to cut police budgets and spend the money on social good. We can also stop laws that give the police more power.

7 Stop the use of weapons and military training for police

Weapons mean the police can injure and kill, and also stop protests. Guns make situations worse and even weapons like tasers can harm and lead to deaths. We can start by taking weapons from the police in places like schools and hospitals. If possible, we could also take weapons from others in society. Many other public workers – such as paramedics and firefighters – often go into dangerous situations without weapons. In Iceland there is a gun for every three people and police do not always carry them. We can stop giving military equipment to police and end military training for police.

8 Stop the prison industry

There are many millions of dollars in the prison industry in surveillance, policing, and prisons. Corporate Watch says, ‘Architects and engineers plan cells and wings, construction companies build them, and other businesses make locks, alarm systems, and fences.’ In the US alone, about 4,000 companies make money from prisons. We can campaign for the divestment of money from these companies.

9 Invest in other ways

Around the world, people have found their own ways to stop violence and harm in their communities. But often there is not enough money and support for this.

10 Working together

While we work for big changes, we can also practice everyday abolition. This means a big change in how we think about problems in our communities. It includes our relationships with people and how we work together. We can also work together to fight patriarchy, white supremacy, the class system, and the other reasons for harm. Abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba said, ‘Everything worthwhile is done with other people.’



(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)