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A Jailbreak of the Imagination: Seeing Prisons for What They Are and Demanding Transformation
By Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes
Posted June 19, 2018

prison industrial complexOutspoken opponents of abolishing the prison industrial complex typically portray abolitionists as politically inactive academics who spout impossible ideas. None of this could be further from the truth. Abolitionists come from all backgrounds, and most are politically active. From bail reform to strategic electoral interventions and mutual aid, prison abolitionists are steadily at work in our communities, employing tactics of harm reduction, lobbying for and against legislation, defending the rights of prisoners in solidarity with those organizing for themselves on the inside and working to forward a vision of social transformation.

As a political framework, abolition has gained significant ground in recent years, with groups like the National Lawyers Guild adopting the philosophy in their work. A growing number of grassroots abolitionist organizers have co-organized nationally recognized campaigns such as the #ByeAnita effort in Chicago, which helped to successfully remove former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez from office. Abolitionist organizers also helped lead efforts to win reparations for survivors of torture that occurred under the now infamous police commander Jon Burge in Chicago — a city that has, over the past two decades, become a hub of abolitionist organizing. Abolition is a practical organizing strategy. More…