1. Prisons perpetuate and enable violence.
Prisons are violent institutions. People in prison experience brutal human rights abuses, including sexual assualt, rape, harassment and medical neglect. Aside from these violations, the act of putting people in cages is a form of violence itself. Such violence leads to extremely high rates of self-harm and suicide, both inside the prison, and following release. The current prison system severly damages the people it imprisons and harms the communities most effected by it. People who are incarcerated under degrading conditions often return to society more unstable than when they went in.
2. Prisons don’t reduce crime.
Putting people into cages does not solve any of the problems that lead to harm, liek drug abuse, poverty, violence, or mental illness. Numerous studies show that places with more prisoners and prisons do not have lower crime rates than other places. Indeed, countless studies – even those conducted by independent criminologists and conservative governments – have found that prisons don’t reduce crime. As the DAubney Commission (appointed by a Conservatie Government) found in Canada, “imprisonment has not been effective in rehabilitating or reforming offenders, has not been shown to be a strong deterrent, and has achieved only temporary public protection and uneven retribution.” In the UK, approximately 65% of prisoners are reconvicted within two years of being released. In order ro reduce harm we must change the social and economic conditions under which the harm takes place. Focusing on creating safe and stable conditions – instead of policing and imprisonment – reduced harm.
3. Prisons don’t meet the needs of victims/survivors of violence.
Victims of violence repeatedly say that the justice system doesn’t work for them. First if all, many serious social harms don’t count as crime or are sancioned by the legal system (such as poverty, war, exploitation). Second, many people who experience violence feel unable to report it (such as sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, hate crimes). Third, when people do go through the legal system, they often feel exluded from the court process, revictimised by lawyers and unsatisfied with results. This is partly because the legal system responds to crime by asking: Who did it, and how can we punish them? By contrast, prison abolitionists ask: Who was hurt? How can we heal them? How can we prevent such harm in the future? Focusing on these latter questions means that prison abolitionists can take victims concerns seriously, priortise healing and emphasise prevention.
4 . Prisons tear apart families and communities.
Prisons not only cause damage to those who are imprisoned, but also to their families and communities. Seperating people from their home communities and isolating them in abusive an violent environments can make pre-existing problems worse. Many prisoners lose their jobs, homes and possessions during custody. Many prisoners break up with their partners, lose custody of their children and lose contact with their families and support networks during incarceration. The prison system claims that it is about safety and order, but it often causes more disruption and violence than the original problem. How can we build safe, strong communities when people are constantly being taken out of them?
5. Prisons are expensive.
It costs approximately £112 per day (£40,992 per year) to keep a person in prison in England and Wales. Prisons drain vital resources from health care, education, housing and social programs, which better address root causes of crime. The cost of alternatives to prison, such as probation, bail supervision and community supervision orders can range from £5 to £50 per day.
6. Prisons are racist and anti-immigrant.
The prison system disproportionately punishes and imprisons people of colour, immigrants, and foreign nationals. People of colour are subject to more police searches, more changes, and harsher sentences than white people. People of colour are disproportionately imprisoned for drug related charges, even thogh people of colour use drugs at similar or lower rates than whites. People without citizenship status are criminalised, punished and locked up just for trying to live in the same country as their family, trying to find a better paid job, or trying to escape from discrimination and persecution in another country. People without citizenship who are convicted of crimes are doubly punished; following criminal punishment, they are often deported, regardless of how long they’ve lived in the UK or what conditions they might face in being sent elsewhere.
7. Prisons reinforce oppressive gender and sexual norms.
Prisons intensify violence against women, queers and trans people, and support a culture of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. Women, trans and queer people in prison experience extreme medical neglect, sexual harassment and abuse – and many go to priosn in the first place for protecting themselves against an abuser. Women in prison often lose custody rights of their children, and are denied reproductive choice. Sex-segregated prisons restrict people’s right to determine their own gender identity and sexuality. Prisoners who don’t identify as ‘male’ or ‘femaile’ or who are gender-non-nonforming are often forced into solitary confinement or share a cell with prisoners of a different gender, with no regard for their safety.
8. Prisons harm young people.
Youth make up a disroportionate percentage of the UK prison population. A large proportion of youth in prison experience violence from peers and staff. Criminalised youth also experience more barriers in getting an education and finding a job later on. A large proportion of youth end up in prison as adults where they are likely to be classified as dangerous because of their youth record. Prison has a particularly negative effect on young people and often increase the risks of further criminalisation. In effect, locking up youth creates creates repeat customers for the prison industrial complex.
9. Prisons exploit imprisoned people labour and make profit for corporations.
Prisoners are paid pennies a day to work for private companies and public industries in a form of legalised slave labour. Private companies that finance, build and run prisons mek a profit from crime and effectively exploit other people’s suffering and misery. Prisons are also toxix environments for workers; prison jobs have high turnover rates, high rates of sick leave and higher rates of depression, stress and anxiety.
10. Prisons are not necessary: real alternatives exist.
The prison industrial complex did not always exist. It has taken about 200 years to build it up. Yet there are still many places where people rely on each other to solve problems instead of police, courts and cages. But we can’t get rid of prisons without making dramatic changes to the systems that lead people to prison. We need to build safe, stabel environments that don’t depend on punishment and domination. If creating better envrionments can’t keep some people from harming others, we need to have something in place to help those involved get meaningful justice and resolution. The prison system does not get this job done. Restorative and transformative justice practices which do not depend on our current policing and court systems may be one way of settling damage that happens between people. Decarceration is widely recognized as an importnant step: numerous prisoners don’t need to be in prison. This means many people could be out now – among their families and friends, making positive contributions to their communities. Shoulder to shoulder we can all learn together how to live in healthy ways that don’t harm anyone.