Who Is This Guide For?
This learning and action guide has been developed for people who are involved in the public health field including students, researchers, practitioners, public health department employees, and others to use with each other in discussion and strategy groups or on their own. This project developed from our conversations with stakeholders at public health institutions, including state and local health departments.
Consider your personal context.
Before diving into this resource, ask yourself: what is your professional or personal experience with prisons and policing? If you’ve had very little interaction or experience, we recommend starting with the glossary in order to familiarize yourself with some terms that we use. We also recommend that you take a moment to open your mind to the possibility that what you’ve been taught about the police and prisons has not always been accurate and that this guide may go against preconceived ideas of the role of police and prisons in our society. This may also be affected by your race, gender, ability, and/or class background. What you have inherited from your family’s history in this country, as well as the way you are perceived as a member of a dominant or nondominant social class, may affect how you receive this guide.
Our involvement or training in the public health field may also affect our perceptions. Public health, like all government and academic institutions in the US, has been complicit, and at times, explicit, in perpetuating racist, violent systems that have been built on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, land theft, genocide, reproductive oppression, eugenics, institutionalization, impoverishment, displacement, and of course, targeted criminalization. Note your biases and where they might come from when diving into this guide, especially if the ideas of abolition seem radical to you.
More resources are out there.
This resource has limitations due to space, capacity restraints, and our own knowledge. Not all of the resources linked to in this guide are explicitly abolitionist, but do demonstrate a particular perspective. For example, some of the research on negative health impacts of policing and punishment recommends that these institutions receive more funding or better training, etc., but were still included because it offers important learnings for public health and can be interpreted in different ways. The guide is also focused on the practices and policies of the United States, which serves as a limitation on understanding the global nature of criminalization and does not reflect the global abolition movement.
You will also notice that in each section, information is listed as either “selected resources” or “for further learning." The purpose of this delineation was to keep each section manageable, but to also include other texts that especially curious users might be interested in accessing.
We also have a list of additional resources to consider, linked here.