We've been having a lot of conversations both online and IRL about abolitionism. While we're generally skeptical of one-size-fits-all reading lists, we have found ourselves recommending a few titles over and over.
So, acknowledging that this is in no way authoritative, here are our most frequent abolitionist recommendations, which variously tackle the questions "how did we get here?", "what's the alternative", and (ever presently) "what about violent crime?".
Abolishing Carceral Society: A Journal of Insurgent Politics by Abolition Collective — "A wonderful mix of provocative ideas married with art, to help us consider a world without prisons, policing, and surveillance. Many of the submissions, however, are less concerned with dismantling what exists than they are with taking seriously that abolition is a project interested in building and in practical organizing." (Mariame Kaba, founder of Project NIA)
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis — "Asks us to imagine a world without prisons, a world more focused on healing and rehabilitation than punishment. Davis delineates the history of prisons as well as how prisons perpetuate racism and sexism." (Thomas, Goodreads.com)
Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement by Ejeris Dixon — "Instead of feeling weighed down by the heavy topics, this book feels inspirational and practical. It's jammed with real case studies and actual strategies. It is full of evidence that there IS a viable path forward." (Chiyi Tam, Goodreads.com)
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale — "successfully proves that policing in the United States fails at both its stated purposes as well as generally maintaining a safe and functioning society. What the police instead excel at is institutional racism, repression, and social control." (Avery, Goodreads.com)
Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair by Danielle Sered — "Makes a compelling argument for steering our criminal justice system toward restorative justice principles and away from an over-reliance on incarceration, using both quantitative data and anecdotal evidence to prove her point." (Celine, Goodreads.com)
Free Resources Online
If you're new to police abolition, you might want to read Mariame Kaba's "Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police", an opinion piece recently published by the NY Times. From we recommend checking out either The Chicago Reader's guide to police abolition or Autostraddle's "Police and Prison Abolition 101: A Syllabus and FAQ".
Lastly, if you prefer a more visual media, members of our collective were impacted by Tourmaline and Dean Spade's four part conversation "Prison Abolition + Prefiguring the World You Want to Live In", which can be found on YouTube.