Abolition requires of us the dismantling of all systems of oppression of which policing and prisons are merely a tool. As abolitionists, we’re saying that we’re done with white supremacy, sexism, racial capitalism, imperialism, violence against women and girls, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, extractive environmental practices, and anti-immigrant nativism. Addressing systems of bigotry and violence means intervening on behalf of those who are harmed the most with the understanding that violence targets us on multiple levels.
Central to the idea of abolition is the understanding that it is not enough just to end state violence or interpersonal violence. Women and people who are victims of gender-based violence often have their needs neglected by the justice system. Often in the process of seeking justice through the legal system, victims of gender-based violence are subjected to additional harm and humiliation through a legal process that fails to center their needs.
The prison system fails to protect women who act in self-defense to domestic abuse and sexual assault, as well as women and girls who are trafficked or in exploitative relationships. These failures culminate in the institution of women’s prisons, where many across the U.S. have astronomic levels of sexual harassment and assault done by prison guards – cases that are rarely reported in a system that rarely believes the targets of gendered violence.
LGBTQIA+ people are frequently discriminated against and excluded from formal employment opportunities, which can lead to economic instability and a need to find work outside of the “system”. Trans folks are often unable to get state ID’s that reflect their lived identities, which often puts them at greater risk for disenfranchisement, police violence, and incarceration.
State and federal laws fail to protect queer, trans and intersex people from disproportionate levels of (state and interpersonal) violence, with some states still permitting the gay/trans-panic defense in cases of violent assault. The bias and prejudice of the cis-hetero patriarchal institution of the legal system result in over-policed queer communities and the over-representation of queer, trans, and intersex people in U.S. prisons. Violence against the LGBTQIA+ community is even harsher for queer POC.
Justice is not intersectional if it is not accessible. Disability can look so different between people, sometimes being invisible, but the disproportionate effects of institutional violence against disabled people are apparent. Like racism, ableism leads to a disproportionate lack of health care, difficulty in maintaining employment and home security, and incarceration amongst people with disabilities. Incarceration is one way of controlling and punishing people with disabilities (especially mental illness), and the history of this violence runs as deep as prisons themselves. People who have been incarcerated are between 4 and 6 times as likely to have some form of disability (mental, physical, or otherwise) than the unincarcerated. People with disabilities are also estimated to represent between one-third and one-half of all police-involved deaths. For our abolition to work, we have to make sure that our activism addresses the needs and traumas of everybody and every body.