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Prison Industrial Complex Abolition 101 Workshop

A revolutionary is primarily concerned with building. Of course that requires the destruction of what already exists, but if anyone is only talking about destroying, they are not revolutionary. - - Kwame Ture

Once again I am improvising an entry for something that is not, technically a book, or even a novella or short story or short-form-audio-non-fiction aka a podcast. But it's something that I want to share, and this is my blog and so: here we are.


"Prison Industrial Complex Abolition 101" is an online workshop facilitated by Mariame Kaba with Project NIA and the Remixing Transformative Justice Project, on the subject of organizing for the abolition of the prison industrial complex. This is the thing you want to watch if you want to be able to sound informed when you yell at people on the internet about defunding the police or why cops are all bastards or whatever. I feel like half the arguments I get into these days--probably more than half if we're being honest, which, why not--are me yelling at white women about how frightened they (we) are of the world that they (we) think cops are a necessary part of civic life. I mean: gross.


The workshop covers: what is the prison industrial complex; how did it come to be; what about reform; and what a future beyond prisons and policing might look like. Some of the key take-aways (based on internet arguments I've gotten into recently) are:

  1. The prison industrial complex extends beyond prisons and into our entire culture of surveillance and control, which prisons are only part of. Other parts include: mass surveillance, the border apparatus, probation and parole and other forms of supervised release or home confinement, disenfranchisement of people with criminal records. And so on.

  2. People have been reforming prisons from literally a few years after they invented modern prisons. Prisons themselves were meant to be reforms of crueler systems of physical punishment, but the reformers who built them regretted it almost instantly. A while back I read BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: THE END OF JUVENILE PRISON, by Nell Bernstein, and it convinced me that 'reform' is a misguided effort, so check that out for follow up info

  3. The most urgent abolitionist work is the imagining of possible futures--a multiplicity of futures--in which prisons and policing are obsolete. This is writers' work, and I'm thinking about ways to be doing this work. This workshop is going to end up in the Acknowledgements section of the novel I'm currently writing, I have no doubt.

The workshop is an hour and 45 minutes long, is a workshop (ie there are breaks for brainstorming and questions that might be fun to talk about with a partner or small group) but isn't so intellectually demanding that you need plan your day around it or anything. I listened to most of it while exercising/cooking, and it was pretty chill. I added some books to my To Read list (Angela Davis was already on my To Read list, but there were a couple other good ones, Ruth Wilson Gilmore etc)


Here's the link: Prison Industrial Complex Abolition 101 Workshop. Check it out.

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