Prison abolition is not som eutopian idea or activist pipedream. It is not a call to suddenly fling open the prison doors without enacting alternatives. Nor does it require that we wait for a revolution before we start changing things. Abolitionists have practical ideas to reduce harm, build alternatives, reduce the need for prisons and eventually eliminate the prisons altogether. There are many models of abolition, but here’s one approach:
Call for immediate halt to all forms of prison expansion, including building new prisons or jail spaces, increasing prison budgets or hiring more prison staff. Redirect money to community-based alternatives. Stop all new laws that result in prison time (e.g. hate crime laws, minimum sentences or extended detention powers). Create time and space to develop alternatives.
MORATORUM: Ban all prison expansion.
DECARCERATE: Get people out of prison.Release as many people from prison as possible and redirect them to alternatives. Start with children, the elderly, people with mental health issues, women and trans persons, people who have committed non-violent offences. Those who need no supervision or support should be released at once. Those who need no supervision but do need support or services should be released to community peer support groups through contractual arrangements. Those needing supervision should be paroled with arrangements for transfer as soon as possible to community services by contract. gradually release and redirect more and more people. Use a timeline if release goals: 50% immediately, 25% within 5 years, 1010% within 10 years, etc.
EXCARCERATE: Stop putting people in prison.
Stop holding people in pre-trial detention and develop alternatives such as bail houses and community supervision. Stop detaining immigrants abd those who have not been charged with crime. Put caps on the number of people who can be sent to prison. Reduce the maximum length of sentences. Abolish indeterminate sentences and mandatory minimum sentences. Decriminalise sex work and drug laws. Redefine categories of crime so that minor offences do not result in prison sentences. Provide options for prisoners to make restitution.
RESTRAINT OF THE FEW: Develop harm reduction & monitoring responses.
Develop a monitoring and review procedure for the very small percentage of people who need to be limited in movement dor some periods of time in their lives. The process should aim to work out the least restrictive and most human option for the shortest perios of time.
BUILDING THE CARING COMMUNITY: Invest in social & economic justice.
Create a network of community supports. Invest in social housing, education, youth services, health care, community-based mental health programs, and employment. Provide victim assistance. Develop restitution/compensation programs. Develop non-punitive responses to harm and mechanisms of social accountability in the community.