Abolition comes from the same blood as the initial removal of the institution of slavery. We use the language and central ideas of abolition when we approach policing because of policing’s connection to historical systems of violence, disenfranchisement, and trauma against people in the diaspora – systems which began in, and continue to reflect, slavery. Freedom Inc. wants to challenge the idea of policing and prisons as a necessary part of society, and we’re doing that through abolition.
Reform says that a system can be fixed, but we say that the system is flawed and oppressive at its core. Policing is a capitalist tool of punishment and control, which exists only to protect the people in power. Reform is not possible because police and prisons are crucial to upholding a violently racist, heteropatriarchal, classist, ableist status quo. Reform is not possible because black people exist outside of cultural citizenship, and we can never benefit from a structure that has always and will always exist to control us. We cannot use the systems that harm us to heal the wounds that they inflict.
The way we dismantle these destructive systems is by investing around them. Abolition relies on a well-supported grassroots infrastructure. #Defund is how we dismantle the police, and shrinking this adversarial system by pouring funds into the community results in a direct investment in the areas where inequality festers. When we use the budgets of police departments to heal our communities, we see that support and #CommunityControl are the answer, not policing. When our communities are well-supported, the problems that our society tries to solve with police disappear. Defunding helps us imagine a world where policing and prisons aren’t necessary.
This community investment exposes all the ways that systems of policing serve ideology, not people. The ideology that shapes our penal systems is informed by whiteness, patriarchy, and capitalism. When these structures are allowed to determine criminality, what is “criminal” overlaps with what is “unsavory” in terms of gender, race, and class. Much of what white patriarchy has decided is criminal can be solved with investment, not punishment. Abolition is the commitment to education, assistance, healthcare, and infrastructure that heals, not harms, our communities. Abolition is the declaration that our needs are not criminal, and that we deserve kindness, not capital punishment.