Because of the significant health impacts of incarceration and police violence, public health institutions are increasingly being asked to offer rational, evidence-based solutions to address these problems
Unfortunately, many of the strategies offered end up doing very little to reduce harm and almost nothing to create accountability, but do increase the size, scope, budget - and legitimacy - of policing, incarceration, and punishment. It is imperative that public health field advocates for alternatives to policing and punishment, rather than for reforms that do not affect meaningful change. The original purpose of policing and incarceration was to maintain class and race hierarchy, and that is still perpetuated within policing today. Not only are police and prisons doing little to reduce patriarchal and gendered violence, these institutions disproportionately perpetrate this violence in police families, in communities, and in prisons. The following selected resources explore where reform falls short of improving community level health and how governments perpetuate the cycle of funding carceral institutions through commitment to reform. Further, these resources seek to demystify the concept of abolition, and clearly define the steps to achieving it through reinvestment and community-based emergency responses that do not further surveil and oppress Black and brown people.
NOTE: Marginalized communities who are in particular political circumstances might support reformist agendas, even temporarily as part of an ultimately abolitionist trajectory, due to not having any other choice. Public health practitioners should look to community organizing and leadership to understand what feels feasible and transformative of material conditions.
Who To Follow
TowardsAbolition.com is a learning and action guide developed for people
involved in the public health field including students, researchers, and practitioners.
Last updated May 2021