Why We’re Relaunching the Prison Abolition Working Group

– Boston DSA Prison Abolition Working Group

A socialist society cannot coexist with the prison system. This is a system that actively suppresses marginalized peoples, commits atrocities under the falsehood of justice, and fundamentally perpetuates capitalism through the prison-industrial complex. As socialists, we must dedicate ourselves to the destruction of the carceral state and the establishment of transformative and restorative justice systems. We must fight for over 2 million people incarcerated in our country’s punishment system who are being exploited by the capitalist elite.

From the imprisonment of freed peoples in the Reconstruction era to contemporary labor suppression, the War on Drugs, and minimum sentencing, the prison system has long helped the government suppress and control people of color. To this day it advances the exploitative and abhorrent legacy of the slave state and thousands of corporations reap financial gains of its forced labor. Decades of concentrated efforts to increase the prison population have resulted in the highest incarceration rates in the world, padding the pockets of the ruling classes along the way. The carceral state inflicts incessant and staggering inhumanities on our most marginalized and vulnerable and it relies on our silence and inaction to keep turning a profit on their backs. 

A long and marred history shows the prison system fails to deliver even the most basic goals of its proponents.  Decades of research show that prison is the least effective means to rehabilitate offenders, and instead greatly increases the likelihood of recidivism. Prison also does not deter nearly any type of criminal activity as it does nothing to address the complex external factors that give rise to crime.  Nor should the retribution of punitive measures be justified in the name of victims, as the great majority of crime survivors want violence prevention, not incarceration. Particularly in regards to violent crime, which is most often exempted from criminal reform efforts, lengthy and punitive incarceration prove especially ill-founded and detrimental.

For this reason among many, as articulated by comrade Angela Davis, criminal reform efforts are wholly inadequate to address the enormity of this injustice. For example, the 2018 Massachusetts “comprehensive criminal reform bill” continues to be circumnavigated by the Department of Corrections, perpetuating the inhumanities the reform tried to address. The prison system’s reliance on fines, fees, and cash bail traps people into cycles of poverty and degradation, extracting money from those least able to afford it to keep itself going. Nearly 70% of people currently in jail have not even been convicted of anything. The prison-industrial complex is a profit-driven system, and a profit-driven system cannot care about anything other than profit. Therefore, we call to abolish the carceral state and move towards a prison-free world. 

As the COVID-19 crisis plagues the world, those of us on the outside are now largely familiar with the practice of social distancing, meant to keep us safe and healthy.  The popular moniker “lockdown,” however, fails to acknowledge the realities of imprisonment. In prison, social distancing is impossible and prisoners are left with no means to protect themselves from this disease.  As such, the Massachusetts carceral system has become a massive vector for the virus, and very little is being done to prevent its spread.

Abolition does not refer solely to the destruction of prisons themselves, however, but to the entire carceral state.

That includes the police.

The world is erupting in grief, pain, and anger at the unconscionable police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, and countless more (the stories of many of whom we will never hear). Unsurprisingly, police departments across the nation have responded to these outpourings of grief with escalated brutality. The need for the utter dissolution of our police force is glaringly evident. Body cameras do not do enough.  “Implicit bias trainings” do not do enough. The research is clear: no solution that maintains the unaccountable, militarized, racist ranks of our police is enough.  It will never be enough until BIPOC can walk freely and without fear.  

It is within this context the Boston DSA Prison Abolition Working Group is compelled to re-form.  

Comrades, we ask that chapter members engage to support the necessary and difficult work being done by local abolitionist organizations and particularly by incarcerated people themselves, organizing for their own liberation. Together we can build a society of true justice and equity for all, and work to repair damages inflicted by the corrupt carceral system.

Please email prisonabolition@bostondsa.org and join us for our working group re-launch meeting, Thursday, June 11, from 7 to 9 p.m.


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