International Penal Abolitionists

Working to Prevent Human Misery

The Prison Abolitionists
Posting Access:
All Members
We seek to build an international movement
to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief
that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that
basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what
really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of
global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success
of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected
by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support
any work that extends its life or scope.

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What is the Prison Industrial Complex?

The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a complicated system situated at the intersection of governmental and private interests that uses prisons as a solution to social, political, and economic problems. The PIC depends upon the oppressive systems of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. It includes human rights violations, the death penalty, industry and labor issues, policing, courts, media, community powerlessness, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the elimination of dissent.

How the PIC Works

To fully describe the PIC, we have to look at the big picture of how it functions. For example, the prison construction boom can be linked to, among other factors, the huge increase in the number of people sentenced to prison terms with the onset of the war on drugs, the repression of radical movements by people of color for self-determination, and the anti-imperialist struggles of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The “war on drugs” and the national and local efforts to destroy radical political movements led to increasing police presence in communities of color and poor communities, higher arrest rates, and longer prison sentences.

This boom is also fueled by dramatic and racist reporting about “crime,” “delinquency,” and “rebellion,” creating a culture of fear in which it continues to be acceptable and desirable to many people to lock people (primarily people of color, youth, and poor people) in cages for longer and longer in the interest of “public safety.” The way the many parts of the PIC interact is exactly what makes it so powerful and destructive. In order to fight this system, we have to see it for all that it is and recognize what drives and shapes it.

Fighting the PIC
Fighting the PIC means fighting the mainstream ideas of public safety and challenging the idea that police, prisons, and the court system make people who are not in power safer. At the same time, we must create alternative ideas of security based on the safety of the people most affected by the PIC.

The United States currently imprisons around 2 million people. About 6.5 million people are presently under some form of supervision within the criminal justice system. Women represent the fastest rising prison population. Since 1980, the number of women imprisoned in the U.S. has risen by almost 400 percent. Racism continues to be a major factor in the United States, illustrated by policies and programs that sustain white supremacy. Racism, as it is used through criminal laws that target people of color, is essential to the PIC, not accidental.

Prisons Are Not an Answer to Crime
The wrongdoings we call crime do not exist in the same ways everywhere and are not “human nature”. What is considered a crime is determined by the societies we live in. Because we have seen over and over again that locking more people in cages does not reduce crime, we must understand the power relationships that lead society to lock up only certain people. Since prisons do not stop problems like poverty, racism, or drug addiction, we cannot expect them to stop crime. We need to understand that we have no option but to fight and continue to fight until all of the different parts of the PIC that continue to put our survival in danger are eliminated.

The Movement Against the PIC

The movement against the PIC runs the risk of being shaped by easy victories or simplified struggles that do not recognize and fight the whole system. We must go beyond false separations, such as "non-violent" versus "violent" that place prisoners in opposition to each other. One important place to begin to fight the PIC is by pushing the movement to a more complete race, class, and gender analysis. We cannot allow ourselves to do short-term work that undermines our long-term vision and goals, or rely on the same systems of oppression and domination that sustain and drive the PIC to influence “mainstream” voters and decision makers. In order to do this work, we must continue to create spaces for people with different points of view to have honest discussions and disagreements about directions the movement against the PIC should take.

What We Are For

Since we are so frequently asked what we are “for” rather than “against,” the struggle against prisons, police, repression, punishment, and the criminalization of entire communities must display a clear vision that a world without the PIC is possible. One way to define and shape what we are for is through creating a culture of resistance, or a culture and society that fill all the different parts of our lives with alternatives to the culture of imprisonment. A new culture must nurture and sustain our struggle and provide space for political education, conversation and debate about what we are doing and what we need to do in the future.

In order to figure out why people get locked up and under what circumstances, we need to look at what are sometimes called “root causes.” This strategy requires looking at the competing priorities of the systems in which we live and understanding why they work well for some and horribly for others. The systems of race, class, gender, and sexuality, for instance, are commonly understood as privileging some people’s needs and ideals over others. By exploring why and how those systems work for some and not for others, we can begin to develop a better understanding of how to include concrete steps in our work that deal with the negative effects of these systems on the people who are most often put in cages.

To oppose the PIC, activists must work on both theoretical and practical levels. We cannot only engage in single-issue struggles, because all the issues intersect. How can we best create social change in an era of globalization? The voices of today's radical activists, particularly activists of color, must be at the front of the fight against the PIC. Those who are most affected by the system must be the ones planning its end.

Organizing against the PIC is as much about building something as it is about fighting what is destroying our communities. Our organizing is also an ongoing effort to create alternatives, not only to imprisonment, but to the culture of punishment we’ve become so used to.

This community is guided by radicalphoenix. Other facilitators are welcome.

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The Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons http://www.noprisons.org
Critical Resistance national and local websites http://www.criticalresistance.org
The International Circle of Penal Abolitionists (ICOPA) http://www.interlog.com/~ritten/icopa.html


Anti-racism tools from the Challenging White Supremacy Collective http://www.prisonactivist.org/cws/
More tools for challenging white privilege http://www.tao.ca/~colours/tools.html
Sentencing Project report on prisoners' voting rights (felon disenfranchisement) http://www.sentencingproject.org/news/fvupdate.pdf
Information from Stop Prison Rape http://www.igc.apc.org/spr/
Tenant Net: The Online Resource for Residential Tenants http://www.tenant.net/


American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org
California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison http://www.prisonactivist.org/ccbwp/
California Coalition for Women Prisoners http://www.prisonactivist.org/ccwp/
CA Prison Moratorium Project http://www.prisonactivist.org/pmp/
California Prison Focus http://www.prisons.org/
Families Against Mandatory Minimums http://www.famm.org
Families to Amend California's Three Strikes (FACTS) http://www.facts1.com/
The Jericho Movement http://www.thejerichomovement.com
Malcolm X Grassroots http://www.members.aol.com/mxgm
Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation http://www.mvfr.org/
Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC) http://www.prisonactivist.org/
Links to several prison -related journals by, for, and about prisoners http://www.prisonactivist.org/pubs/journals.shtml
Prison Moratorium Project http://nomoreprisons.org
Southwest Alliance to Resist Militarization (SWARM) http://www.resistmilitarization.org/
Western Prison Project http://www.westernprisonproject.org/


Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty - http://www.cuadp.org/
Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
National Coalition Against the Death Penalty http://www.ncadp.org/
Equal Justice for Olen Hutchison www.saveolen.com


Common Sense for Drug Policy http://www.csdp.org/
Drug Policy Alliance http://www.dpf.org/
Harm Reduction Coalition http://www.harmreduction.org/
Human Rights Watch report on race and the drug war http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/usa/
National Housing Law Project http://www.nhlp.org


All of Us or None http://www.allofusornone.org
Critical Resistance Former Prisoner Resource Page http://www.criticalresistance.org/index.php?name=Former-Prisoners


Amnesty International http://www.amnestyusa.org
Double Jeopardy http://www.doublejeopardy.org
Human Rights Watch Prison Project http://www.hrw.org/prisons/
The National Conference on Organized Resistance http://www.organizedresistance.org


National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights http://www.nnirr.org
Southwest Alliance to Resist Militarization (SWARM) http://www.resistmilitarization.org/


Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) http://www.fair.org
Freedom Archives http://www.freedomarchives.org/
Prison Legal News http://www.prisonlegalnews.org/
Prison News Service http://www.prisonactivist.org/pubs/pns/
Prisons and Police Brutality IMC http://www.sf.indymedia.org/features/police/
Radio Diaries/prison diaries: http://www.radiodiaries.org/prisondiaries.html
This American Life Lockup: http://www.thislife.org
360 Degrees http://www.360degrees.org


ACLU Organizing Guide Online http://www.aclu.org/library/fighting_police_abuse.html#gather
Cop Watch: An Introductory Guide to Citizen Monitoring of Police http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/heat/tools/copwatch/index.html
October 22nd Coalition http://www.october22.org/
Police Watch (A Project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights) http://www.ellabakercenter.org/police.html


Anarchist Black Cross http://www.anarchistblackcross.org
Free the Angola Three www.prisonactivist.org/angola
Eddie Hatcher Defense Committee http://www.eddiehatcher.org
Jafar Saidi Defense Committee http://www.uhurujafar.org
The Jericho Movement http://www.thejerichomovement.com
Letters From Exile: Raymond Luc Levasseur http://www.home.earthlink.net/~neoludd/
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee http://www.freepeltier.org
International Friends and Family of Mumia Abu Jamal http://www.mumia.org
Free Mumia Coalition http://www.freemumia.org
Alvaro Luna Hernandez National Freedom Coalition www.freealvaro.org
Out of Control Lesbian Committee to Support Women Political Prisoners http://www.prisonactivist.org/ooc
Free the West Memphis Three http://www.wm3.org


ACLU National Prison Project http://www.aclu.org/issues/prisons/hmprisons.html
American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org
California Prison Focus http://www.prisons.org/
CA Prison Moratorium Project http://www.prisonactivist.org/pmp/
Center for Community Alternatives http://www.communityalternatives.org
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice http://www.cjcj.org
Committee to End the Marion Lockdown http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~kastor/ceml.html
CURE -- Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants http://www.curenational.org
(Dis)location and the Ruralization of US Prisons http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~tamamail/location.html
Families Against Mandatory Minimums http://www.famm.org
Family and Corrections Network http://www.fcnetwork
The Fortune Society http://www.fortunesociety.org
National Center on Institutions and Alternatives http://www.igc.org/ncia
National Council on Crime and Delinquency http://www.nccd-crc.org/
The Other Side of the Wall http://www.prisonwall.org/
Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC) http://www.prisonactivist.org/
Links to several prison -related journals by, for, and about prisoners http://www.prisonactivist.org/pubs/journals.shtml
Prison Moratorium Project http://nomoreprisons.org
Prisonsucks.com: Research on the prison industrial complex http://www.prisonsucks.com
Prison Zone A large collection of prisoner web sites, writings, links, photographs, and more http://www.prisonzone.com/
The Sentencing Project http://www.sentencingproject.org
Western Prison Project http://www.westernprisonproject.org/

PRISONER RESOURCES (See print resources list for newsletters, etc.)

The Beat Within http://www.pacificnews.org/yo/beat/
Innocence Denied http://www.innocencedenied.com
Journal of Prisoners on Prisons http://www.jpp.org/
Prison Legal News Resource Links Page http://www.prisonlegalnews.org/links/links.htm ( Includes state-by-state prisoner phone directory, books to prisoners programs, and more.)
Prison Zone Links. A large collection of prisoner web sites, writings, links, photographs, and more. http://www.prisonzone.com/prison.html


Mother Jones: Debt to Society http://www.motherjones.com/prisons/
National Criminal Justice Reference Service http://www.ncjrs.org/
Prison Policy Initiative: Springfield, MA based research and advocacy organization http://prisonpolicy.org
U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics Publications http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm


California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison http://www.prisonactivist.org/ccbwp/
California Coalition for Women Prisoners http://www.prisonactivist.org/ccwp/
National Women's Alliance http://www.nwaforchange.org
Proyecto Common Touch - http://www.proyectocommontouch.org


Transgender/Gender Variant Committee of California Prison Focus http://www.prisons.org
Transgender in Prison Journal (Compiled by the Gender Identity Center of Colorado)
Transgender Prisoners' Rights http://www.transgenderlaw.org


The Beat Within http://www.pacificnews.org/yo/beat
Building Blocks for Youth http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice http://www.cjcj.org
Community Justice Network for Youth www.cjny.org/home.html
Human Rights Watch Juvenile Justice Page http://www.hrw.org/children/justice.htm
Lets Get Free! http://www.ellabakercenter.org/page.php?pageid=53
School of Unity and Liberation http://www.youthec.org/soul/
Youth Empowerment Center (YEC) http://www.youthec.org
Youth Force Coalition http://www.youthec.org/youthforce
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