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Book Review: Abolition For The People

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Abolition For The People: The Movement For A Future Without Policing & Prisons

Edited By: Colin Kaepernick

The ideas and writings of these individual authors are their own and do not reflect my personal values of policing and the prison system.

"Abolition For The People" is a radical book about discontinuing the police and the prison systems in the United States. Editor and former NFL Football player Colin Kaepernick has used his platform to create a book publishing company that uses activism against the United States police and prison systems. The book is a compilations of many essays written by public activist that have been apart of the prison system, police forces, private security, and lawyers. Many of the essays use terms and saying that work against the United States Justice System. The purpose of this article is to identify the core messages of this book and give a perspective on the ways the justice system can make policing and prison system administrations better. Although the core message of these authors is to completely discontinue the police and prison systems entirely, I do not agree with this message.

The book starts with the term Abolition and the historical relevance of the abolition movement in the United States. The original abolition movement was to end the Atlantic slave trade and liberate the enslaved people. Today, abolition means the act of officially ending or stopping something : the act of abolishing something, abolition of the death penalty; the act of officially ending slavery a proponent of abolition. Let's take a deeper dive into what this book talks about.

Book Sections and Topics

Police & Policing

  • "The Myth of the Good Cop"

  • "My Son was executed by an ideal"

  • "When police play soldier, everybody loses"

  • "Schools as carceral spaces"

Prisons & Carcerality

  • "E-Carceration : The age of digital prisons"

  • "Melt ICE"

  • "Prisons as a public health crisis"

Fuck Reform

  • "Locked in Jail for a crime he did not commit"

  • "Putting a Black Face on Police Agendas"

Abolition Now

  • "Ending the war on Black women"

  • "Building a world where Breonna Taylor could live"

"The Myth of the Good Cop"

Copaganda - the reproduction and circulation in mainstream media of propaganda that is favorable to law enforcement - has long been a tool to disrupt legitimate claims of anti-Black violence. This section speaks to the reader who has seen violence by Cops through television and the messages that main stream television media uses to manage the public's view of a police officer. Certain shows like The FBI, S.W.A.T, Adam -12, Harlem Detectives NYPD Blue, Law and Order, Blue Bloods, Boyz in the Hood are television and movies that promote the police forces and claim to undermine the minority civil society. Although many people can see these main stream media shows and movies to be a historical projection of the Justice system, to glorify the policing and prison system, it should mention the countless realistic stories that are shown. It is significant that these television shows and movies be shown throughout media because it grants the public an inside look into how police forces, judicial and prison systems function on a daily basis. Although some components of these main stream media may not be completely accurate, since these institutions have their own administrative processes that must be followed through a vail of confidentiality, the ideology is legitimate in many of these cases. Unfortunately, we see people of color and minorities that are subject to the cases in these shows but it is not the only type of cases that are shown on television. It is certainly not the only type of cases that we see in the judicial justice system and there are countless types of people that represent the cases that go through the justice system everyday.

"My Son was executed by an ideal"

A Conversation with Gwendolyn Woods as Told to Kiese Laymon

Gwendolyn Woods' story is heart-breaking and honest. She talks about her son who was killed while interacting with the police. She talks about how Mario "messed up" and was sent to prison before he was killed. Mario was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs and tried to keep her son out of trouble. In many instances like this we can see the clear grief that she has experienced after losing her child. It's sad to hear stories so brutal and honest but in our society today it's important to tell every side of the story so that we can make a commitment to do better. I hope her family and friends find peace.

"When police play soldier, everybody loses"

This saying comes from the police task force SWAT which stands for "Special Weapons Attack Team" which utilizes a more advanced type of domestic security. SWAT is used to secure important events that makes them hard targets for guerilla units or domestic terrorism. Police militarization is a way for the police to gain control of highly impacted hostile situations. Unfortunately, the abolitionists of policing believe that the police use SWAT tactics to be brutal to the public on certain issues. Strict safety precautions keep the general public safe from any terrorist threats. Although, the SWAT teams persistent quest for perfection like military excellence, the abolitionist don't agree on the usage of some SWAT tactics on the general public. The important take away from this section is that many people in the police force do come from military backgrounds but they have a unique perspective on domestic security that keeps nationwide safety. The reverse extremism to their argument should be to add new policing programs to minimize overt aggression and maximize safety. The abolitionist believe that the SWAT force is a more aggressive and deliberate antagonizing force that wants complete control of the public. Their protest is completely irrational to the necessary precautions and security measures that are needed to keep hundreds of thousands and millions of people safe everyday.

"Schools as carceral spaces"

The argument that this essay provides is that schools are now becoming carceral spaces where children are trapped in an institution with armed guards and police officers on site. "Black students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade are overrepresented in every form of discipline - from teacher-issues referrals to corporal punishment to suspensions, expulsion, and police arrests." 36% White, 31% Black or African American, 24% Latinx, 5% Asian have been arrested or referred to law enforcement for an in school disciplinary action. " The harm from these sentences will not fall equally. The racial disparities in juvenile (Life without Parole) LWOP sentencing are stark: 70 percent of all youths sentenced to LWOP are children of color."

In light of recent events, around the country many schools are adopting active shooter drills the necessity of police in schools has risen concerns in many local communities. This text was written after the Parkland, Florida school shooting which is the biggest public school shooting in American history. Law makers around the country are weighting their options on policing in schools and the impact that this will have on secondary education centers. Many of the people who believe in the abolishment of policing also link carceral spaces in the school system.

Prisons' & Carcerality

"E-Carceration : The age of digital prisons"

This essay talks about the e-carceration of ankle monitors or electronic monitors for people who were incarcerated or are on monitored parole. The idea of "freedom with limitations" applies to their theory of "the age of digital prisons and e-carceration". Though data is scare. the number of people on monitors has risen from 55,000 in 2005 to an estimated 250,000+ in 2019.

BI, the largest electronic monitoring company in the US, a subsidiary of the world's largest private prison operator, the GEO Group, has secured its third five-year contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to place thousands awaiting adjudication of an immigration case on the GPS tracker.

People who have been subjected to electronic monitoring by court order and receive the sanctions on their limited free time must abide by the regulations set before them. The individual that wrote this section was a recipient of this judicial treatment after their release from incarceration.

"Melt ICE"

ICE and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the two agencies primarily responsible for immigration enforcement, employ more than 80,000 people, with a massive budget of $25.3 billion in 2020 ($8.4 billion for ICE and $16.0 billion for CBP), which is more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. The two writers of this essay Cristina Jimenez Moreta and Cynthia Garcia, have a unique perspective on the civil liberties of the children in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). They advocated for the rights of immigrants and want to establish fair and equal treatment of those that came into the country. Although, their argument is based on the asylum theory, that immigrant youth and their families fled poverty, military coups, violence, and wars, while others simply wanted to go after a better life. United We Dream (UWD) community organizers responded to immigrant families reporting interactions with ICE and CBP agents and who need help when their friends and loved ones faced detention and deportation. Facing hundreds of calls per week on our community "Migra Watch" free hotline these individuals are looking for people that are being trafficked or illegally immigrating to the United States of America. The entire argument is based on the rights of immigrants and certain law enforcement agencies that might target migrant Black and Brown communities.

"Prisons as a public health crisis" by Kenyon Farrow

After recent COVID-19 events, the US and globally around the world determined how to reduce transmission of COVID-19 (or any future airborne pathogens) in settings like prisons, jails, and detention centers. Certain biometrics and regular temperature taking (despite the fact that many people can carry and transmit COVID-19 even while asymptomatic), introduced more forms of surveillance into prison and jail settings. On March 31, 2020, the US Bureau of Prisons announced the next phase of a plan to help curb COVID-19 exposure in federal prisons, the memo states that "to the extent practicable," incarcerated people would be allowed to participate in some education and mental-health services, and provide labor in areas that required workers to keep the facilities running.

In August 2020, the New York Times reported that the top 10 COVID-19 transmission clusters in the country were in prisons, jails, and detention centers. COVID-19 put a spot light on the public health crisis and prison systems around the country that are incubators of infectious disease outbreaks. The writer of this essay displays the ideas behind advocating new prison systems that focus on health care for the spread of diseases and mental-health care services. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 40 percent of all people in prison reported having a current chronic health condition, while over half said they have had a chronic medical condition at some point in their lives. 21 percent of people in prison and 14 percent of people in jail reported ever having tuberculosis, hepatitis B or C, or other STDs. HIV rates in prisons are five to seven times higher than in the general population. Prison systems have an obligation to be reformed and incorporate new institutional policies that help their prisoners stay healthy and protect them from life threatening diseases.

Fuck Reform

"Locked in Jail for a crime he did not commit"

No Justice, No Freedom by Derrick Hamilton

He claims that the criminal justice reform cost him 21 years of his life. In 1994, New York State convicted him of a murder he did not commit. He was found guilty of causing harm. For 21 years he languished in prison, which he claims was "stolen by the Bill Clinton infamous 1994 crime bill, a bill then-Senator Joe Biden helped to write." In 2015, he was exonerated. After many years a woman whose testimony had helped secure his conviction recanted it, claiming that one of the investigating detectives had coerced her into testifying. The detective was Louis Scarcella, who had 16 cases overturned. Eventually a Brooklyn district attorney investigating old cases overturned Mr. Hamilton's conviction.

Mr. Hamilton claims that the Clinton's 1994 and 1996 bills were essentially designed to

  1. give police and government officials the tools to fight the "war on drugs" that disproportionally affect the Black and Brown communities

  2. build more prisons, particularly solitary confinement

  3. lock up more Black and Brown people in the process, pushing them through the difficult-to-understand criminal legal system

Unfortunately, Mr. Hamilton experienced an injustice in our legal system which put him behind bars for 21 years without committing the crime alleged.

"Putting a Black Face on Police Agendas" By Bree Newsome Bass

Black Cops Don't Make Policing Any Less Anti-Black

One of the most frequent recommendations from police reformists is to recruit and promote more Black officers. The idea behind this essay is that many police systems around the country have an ideology that hiring more Black and Brown police officers will result in the restoration of public trust in these Black and Brown communities. Recruiting officers that look like the community they represent to serve and protect will be a fundamental building block to gain pubic trust in cops and policing. The author points out historical movements for the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the Atlanta city's Black mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, held a press conference with Atlanta's most famous and wealthy Black residents. This movement served to show the Black and Brown communities of the work these Black officers practice in our communities. However, the author is not impressed and says that the policing was a crack down on organized crime which disrupted the freedoms of the Black community. This author challenges the idea of reform and idealizes the historical relevance of abolishment of slavery in the Black and Brown communities.

Abolition Now

"Ending the war on Black women" by Andrea J. Ritchie

"Building a world where Breonna Taylor could live"

The author of this essay writes about the experience of police who used their power to kill this unarmed Black woman, Breonna Taylor. She discusses the BREATHE Act which was shrined in the Movement for Black Lives, launched in the wake of the summer 2020 uprisings to elevate the demands of the streets into federal legislation. The author finds the injustice of the murder of Breonna Taylor who was subjected to this death in her community. Questions from Black community leaders are looking for answers in legislation to combat the essential murders and overt policing tactics that hinder Black freedom. She makes the claim that since policing has made these mistakes in the past, it makes it difficult for Black women to gain safety in calling the police for help. She states that over 40 percent of domestic violence survivors and 75 percent of rape and sexual assault survivors don't call the police. For every Black woman who reports her rape, at least fifteen do not. Two-thirds of Black trans respondents to the US Transgender Survey said they would be uncomfortable asking for help from the police if they needed it - in spite of epidemic levels of physical, sexual, and fatal violence targeting trans women. The author advocates justice for Black women and the uses of social movements to get their voices heard.


The entire book is filled with rhetoric against police brutality, mass incarceration systems and injustices that have happened in our American society. The ideas and writings of these individual authors are their own and do not reflect my personal values of policing and the prison system. Personal stories of people who have been incarcerated are hard to achieve in newer publications so this book is vitally important. The works of all the authors have been eye opening and an excellent experience reading their ideas. Although, I am a strong believer in policing systems and prisons that keep our society safe from those that pose an imminent threat. The critical analysis of this research was important to further personal knowledge of a movement.

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