How I Was Introduced To Prison Abolition

The first time I can remember the concept of prison abolition appearing on my radar was my junior year of college — a friend was involved with an organization, Justice Now, that works with women prisoners and toward a world without prisons. Their website, although it never technically mentions the term “abolition,” was the first real exposure I had to the idea of prison abolition — the idea of getting rid of prisons in favor of  a “world without prisons.”

While I was in the Bryn Mawr bookstore that winter, I noticed a copy of Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? prominently displayed because she had visited Bryn Mawr (was going to visit Bryn Mawr? It’s a little fuzzy). I wasn’t able to see Angela Davis speak at BMC because I needed to make an emergency flight home that week, but I bought the book. I mostly read it over spring break (because I’m a Mawrtyr, and that’s the kind of book I read on spring vacation in Florida), and it caused a complete paradigm shift in my mind. I wasn’t yet identifying myself as an abolitionist, but something had changed.

Shortly afterward, however, I began dealing with gender-related issues, and prison abolition got shifted to the back of my mind. Fast-forward to the spring of my senior year — I was considering moving to Chicago, and I decided to do a Google search for prison abolition in Chicago. I struck gold: I found TJLP (which you can always support here). Although it looked completely amazing (and combined trans folk with prison abolition!), there didn’t look to be a way I could get involved, not being an attorney myself. Still, I put myself on their mailing list, just in case.

As you probably know, I went to an early organizing meeting for TJLP’s Name Change Mobilizations, fell in love with TJLP, and discovered that they had internship opportunities. And the rest, as they say, was history.

TJLP made prison abolition real for me. I’d read Are Prisons Obsolete?, which introduced the idea, and I bought The CR10 Publications Collective’s Abolition Now! while I was in Chicago that summer, but TJLP brought it out of the written word. TJLP helped me be able to verbalize my feelings about the prison industrial complex and why it needs to end. TJLP gave me community who were even more impassioned about prison abolition. TJLP is why I identify myself as an abolitionist.

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