Jeannie Alexander: Abolition Statement

At No Exceptions Prison Collective (NEPC) we believe that abolition is the natural result of a system of transformative justice. Thus abolition is not only about abolishing all systems designed to break the human mind and spirit, but ultimately about the creation of a post-carceral communitarian landscape. Abolition is the beginning of a culture committed to true accountability which seeks the healing and transformation of brokenness and injury. Abolition results when we recognize that hurt people hurt people; and that physical violence is most often a symptom of economic deprivation, racism, prior abuse, and learned hopelessness. Abolition seeks to create communities without walls and borders; communities that recognize that no humans are illegal or irredeemable; communities that do not confuse accountability with permanent exile and warehousing.

We are abolitionists because we oppose and abhor all forms of human slavery and trafficking. We understand that the values of unregulated capitalism are not commensurate with the values of the commons and that our particular economic system has led not to greater freedom in the service of the common good, but rather to the commodification of human flesh and the confinement of millions. Indeed, the Thirteenth Amendment did not abolish slavery, rather, it carved out an exception for its continued existence. Today mass incarceration through the prison industrial complex (PIC) is the embodiment of neo-slavery, and to the end of the elimination of mass incarceration and the PIC, we are neo-abolitionists.

To be clear, we recognize that when harm occurs in a community it may be necessary to separate those whose immediate physical actions have resulted in harm to another. Social separation has its place.  However, successful social separation should be as brief as possible and should result in the restoration of the individual to his or her community and the restoration of victims and their families. A retributive system of criminal justice is contrary to the creation of healthy communities and intact families; such a system ensures the continued existence of racism and poverty and values incarceration over education. In light of the examples of other countries that have chosen to implement superior models of restorative justice, the logical and damning conclusion is that the United States intentionally maintains a system of slavery in the interest of profit and the disenfranchisement of minorities and the poor. The policies and procedures of state and federal prison systems are intentionally obscure and contradictory and once inside the system individuals have almost no public voice and little to no control over their lives. Families of prisoners also have minimal control over the often arbitrary and retributive decisions visited upon the mind and body of a loved one. Like chattel slavery of the past, families are destroyed and decisions to ship slaves are made with no consideration given to the broader and long-term impact to the community, much less to the slave. When humans are warehoused with no chance for restoration to their community, and are of more economic value locked down than free, that is slavery.

The only moral response to slavery is abolition.

–Jeannie Alexander, Director NEPC

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Image from No Exceptions

[This post is part of a series of “Abolition Statements” from members of the Abolition Journal Collective and Editorial Review Board. See here for a brief introduction to these posts.]