How has the policing/prison systems enforced oppression in the United States, and do reformist policies lead people toward their deserved liberation or maintain the cycle?
At its root, policing and prisons are systems designed to uphold oppression. One thousand people are killed by police every year.
Black people are murdered at three times the rate of white people. Up to 50% of people murdered by police have disabilities. Up to 40% of police officers have perpetrated intimate partner violence, and sexual violence is the second most common force of brutality, primarily targeting Black women and especially those who are sex workers and drug users.
Many of these incidents of police violence undocumented by studies and only uplifted through grassroots movements. Prisons, police, and prosecutors work closely together to sustain white supremacist, capitalist, ableist, and cisheteropatriarchal systems of extraction and death.
Black people who are women, trans, gender non-conforming, sex working, and queer are often criminalized for actions they take to survive gendered violence, as we have seen in the cases of Tracy McCarter, Chrystul Kizer, Alisha Walker, GiGi Thomas, Marissa Alexander, Brehsa Meadows, Cyntoia Brown, and many others.
We reject the notion of a “perfect survivor”; we do not believe anyone deserves to be caged, nor do we prescribe to the state’s notions of “innocence” and culpability. We recognized that the system of policing is intertwined with the prison and military industrial complex, both here and abroad. In abolishing policing we seek to abolish imperialist forms of police, such as militaries responsible for generations of violence against Black and brown people worldwide.
We believe in a world where there are zero police murders because there are zero police, not because police are better trained or better trained or better regulated - indeed, history has shown that ending police violence through more training or regulations is impossible.
We further believe that abolition necessitates decolonization. Settlers on this land have no right to build jails, confine, and terrorize people who have always been here. We recognize that all police and prisons will not disappear tomorrow. Instead we believe in the strategic importance of non-reformist reforms, or measures that reduce the scale, scope, power, authority, and legitimacy of criminalizing institutions. We also recognize carceral agents’ constant attempts to co-opt and rebrand abolition through the language of harm reduction. We envision abolition as not only a matter of tearing down criminalizing systems such as police and prisons that shorten the lives of Black, brown, and poor people, but also a matter of building up life-sustaining systems that reduce, prevent and better address harm. We seek a reparations model, where in our communities that have been harmed by policing and mass criminalization for centuries are given their due from every corporation and institution that has profited from policing.