LSBU Prison Abolition Reading Group
What would a world without prisons look like?
In recent years, abolitionist thinking has entered mainstream conversations on justice. However, despite the long history of abolitionist thinking, rooted in the anti-racist, queer feminist and black liberation movements of the last centuries, it can be hard for people to find resources about abolition without knowing where to look.
The LSBU Prison Abolition Reading Group aims to make abolitionist ideas accessible to all students. Participants will be provided with a short reading list of set texts in PDF form to read in their own time before we meet as a group. Over the course of six sessions spread over six months, we will meet to have an open and horizontal discussion of the key concepts and theories of prison abolition which are covered in the texts.
Each session will focus on a different aspect of abolition. The first session is an introductory session which will introduce the basic concepts of abolition and the history of the movement. The second session outlines the alternatives to prison reform, which will be followed by a session on feminist and queer approaches to abolition, and a session on transformative and alternative justice. Finally, we will explore texts concerned with abolitionist approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last session will cover abolition and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and the call to ‘abolish the police’.
All students will be welcome to share their own personal views and experiences of policing, prisons, institutional and interpersonal violence, abolition, and the justice system in a safe space, if they would like to do so. In these sessions we will explore schools of abolitionist thought and while one focus of these sessions will be trying to understand the reality and implications of our current justice system, students will also be encouraged to imagine what a future without prisons might look like.
For more information, email us with any questions you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SESSION TWO: ALTERNATIVES TO REFORM
WEDNESDAY 9TH FEBRUARY 2022 AT 3.30pm (Room K2-V505)
- "What Abolitionists Do" by Dan Berger, Mariama Kaba and David Stein (2017)
What Abolitionists Do (jacobinmag.com)
- "Liberals, Guns and the Roots of the U.S. Prison Explosion" by Naomi Murakawa (2015
Naomi Murakawa & #BlackLivesMatter: Liberals, Guns and the Roots of the U.S. Prison Explosion - YouTube
- "The Tension Between Abolition and Reform" by L. Ben-Moshe in The End of Prisons: Reflections from the Decarceration Movement by M. E. Nagel and A. J. Nocella (2013)
Dropbox - Ben-Mosche_tension_between_abolition_reform.pdf - Simplify your life
- “Reformist Reforms vs Abolitionist Steps in Policing” by Critical Resistance (no date)
- "Against Rehabilitation: For Reparative Justice" by Pat Carlen (2012)
- “Abolition not Reformation” by Sara Chitseko (2020)
Abolition NOT Reformation (4frontproject.org)
- "Reform or Abolition: Using popular mobilisations to dismantle the 'prison-industrial complex' by Julia Sudbury (2009)
- - "Prisons cannot be places of rehabilitation" by John Moore (2016)
Why these texts?
These readings explain the concepts of reformist and ‘non-reformist reforms’.
The video with Naomi Murakawa challenges the assumption that prison growth is driven by conservatives and explains how often it is well-intentioned 'liberal' reforms which have led to prison expansion.
The chapter by Liat Ben-Moshe demonstrates some of the tensions and nuances in figuring out where reform ends and abolition begins.
Some questions to think about...
1. What are some of the problems with traditional reforms identified in the readings?
2. Who tends to benefit from reforms and who doesn’t?
3. The first piece (by Berger, Kaba and Stein) defines non-reformist reforms as ‘those measures that reduce the power of an oppressive system while illuminating the system’s inability to solve the crises it creates’. How can we distinguish between a non-reformist reform and a traditional reform?
4. Can you think of some examples of criminal justice reforms in recent years? Do you think these reforms have strengthened the criminal justice system or could any be characterised as non-reformist reforms
details from previous sessions:
SESSION ONE - INTRODUCTION TO ABOLITION:
Wednesday 17th November at 3.30pm-4.30pm in Room BR-332
The readings for this session introduce the basic concepts of the prison industrial complex and prison abolition. Students will be invited to question why we take prison for granted and how that might limit us in developing other ways of dealing with social problems.
Core Readings for the first session: Introduction to Abolition:
- “Introduction: Prison Reform or Prison Abolition?” in Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis (2003) https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Are_Prisons_Obsolete_Angela_Davis.pdf
- “What is the Prison Industrial Complex?” by Critical Resistance (no date)
- “Nine Perspectives for Prison Abolitionists” and “Dismantling the Prison System” in Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists by Prison Research Education Action Project (1973)
- “What does Justice Look like Without Prisons?” by Oonagh Ryder (2018)
- “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore might change your mind” by Rachel Kuchner (2019)
- “Rethinking Our Justice System: Abolition in the UK” by Hajera Begum (2020)
- “Ruth Wilson Gilmore Makes the Case for Abolition (Part 1) in The Intercept Podcast (2020)
Future sessions, dates and times TBA:
SESSION THREE: FEMINIST AND QUEER APPROACHES TO ABOLITION
SESSION FOUR: TRANSFORMATIVE AND ALTERNATIVE JUSTICE
SESSION FIVE: ABOLITIONIST RESPONSES TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
SESSION SIX: BLACK LIVES MATTER AND ABOLISHING THE POLICE