The Path towards Abolition: Dismantling a Broken System and Rebuilding from the Ground Up

Creator: Spencer Platt | Credit: Getty Images

We have reached a point in U.S. history where calling for police reform is futile. This call has historically been met with enormous resistance from police departments — and ultra-powerful police unions — across the country. Every year we see police budgets increase while essential social services and public institutions are defunded. And unsurprisingly, we see no reduction in police brutality and abuse of power. Steady rates of police killings nationwide, despite reforms being implemented, exhibits daily the inevitability and propensity for violence that is inherent within the police institution as a whole.

What we have is a system that prioritizes the elite and their private property at the expense of Black and minority groups, who it disproportionately targets and surveils. A system born out of runaway slave patrols, that harbors racism within its very DNA. A system where violence is inevitable. The concept of modern policing is so fundamentally broken that it must be dismantled. Our society must be rebuilt and reimagined in order for us to ever have a chance to survive and thrive.

I aspire to gradually replace this broken system with something that works. Something that is rooted in community care. Something that is focused on actually preventing crime and violence by addressing their root causes. Something that prioritizes uplifting and investing in marginalized communities. Something that decriminalizes maurijana, homelessness, sex work and minor traffic violations so that we dont see non-violent people rotting in jail. Something that invests in medics, social workers, mental health and substance abuse specialists and those trained in conflict de-escalation. Something that advocates for restorative justice, not the ineffective and inhumane system of mass incarceration that dooms a person for life (causing life-long trauma, broken families and communities, termination of voting rights and difficulties obtaining employment) and only feeds recidivism.

I, and those with me, aim to slowly phase out our reliance on police by defunding, disempowering and demilitarizing officers and departments. We aim to reinvest that money into our communities and prevent crime by addressing issues of poverty. And further, we aim to empower our communities through community accountability programs and community care governance. That’s the movement we’re building.

Disempowering the police and reducing their budget

A crucial first step on the path towards abolition is curtailing the power and influence of the police and related institutions. This includes:

Redirect money from the NYPD into neglected city services for New Yorkers, and invest in community programs proven to reduce crime

The police and prison system does not work to reduce crime, but thoughtful community services and interventions do. Community organizations foster meaningful relationships and positive engagement, which in turn has been proven to lower crime rates. Abolishing police is not possible without also investing in youth, housing, substance abuse treatment, healthcare and new approaches to conflict resolution. New York City could spend the money we currently give to the NYPD to support:

Existing city agencies already do a tremendous job helping fulfill New Yorker’s needs. If “broken windows” beget crime, let’s get to work fixing those proverbial windows.

Empowering the community through community accountability programs and community care governance

Everyday, 2.3 million people are stuck in overcrowded prisons, facing inhumane conditions, offered only limited opportunities for transformation, and forever burdened by the lifelong collateral consequences of their prison time. The prison industrial complex is yet another apparatus of the state that is broken and beyond reform. Abolishing police involves abolishing all structures of violence — including prisons.

True transformative justice requires preventing future crime by addressing the root causes of lawbreaking itself, such as substance abuse, lack of healthcare, poverty, and homelessness. If policy makers are really interested in preventing crime, it is essential that they start looking at effective alternatives to incarceration, such as community-based treatment programs and other solutions rooted in restorative justice.

Non-carceral alternatives to prison such as intervention programs can do much more than incarceration can to ensure public safety, and often at a much lower cost. For example:

Furthermore, an important and keystone initiative towards ending recidivism will need to focus on intervention programs targeted at youth to prevent the increased likelihood of reoffending. Such programs have already been implemented in some states and the results speak for themselves:

According to a 2016 survey of survivors of violence conducted by the Alliance on Safety and Justice, most victims of violence in fact desire violence prevention, not incarceration, for their offender. Policy makers cannot ignore the voices of victims who they purportedly legislate to protect. We should invest in restorative justice programs that bring the victim and perpetrator together, along with trained mediators, to repair harm, achieve true justice and engage solutions that are focused on violence prevention. This can be a private discussion or involve the community. Outcomes can include:

Currently, the justice system’s primary response to crime is mass incarceration. We should no longer be reactive, and rather be proactive by redirecting our attention to crime prevention and investing in the health and welfare of our communities and the aforementioned initiatives, which aim to actually, and legitimately, make a significant and long-term impact on reducing crime. Incarceration has been successful only in profiting corporate networks as well as inflicting irreparable mental and physical harm on individuals, families, and communities. Incarceration has simply failed in improving public safety and must be dismantled and abolished. Investing in communities and community programs — rather than billions in law enforcement — means that we address our actual goal, which is to make our communities safer for all.

We, as a community, we can start this process of proactively addressing crime prevention by investing our energies into community care governance through:

Thereby, organically creating local “safety structures” grounded in, and focused on, communal safety and well-being. In fact, the implementation of such community safety measures have already resulted in substantial decreases in crime, specifically right here in New York City.

Kristin Richardson Jordan (KRJ), Candidate for New York City Council District 9 Kristin is a poet, local activist, speaker, teacher, DSA member, Black queer woman, and third-generation Harlemite on a mission to disrupt District 9 (Central Harlem) with radical love. Started almost a year and a half before the murder of George Floyd, her Kristin for H.A.R.L.E.M. political platform includes advocacy for police accountability, abolition, affordable housing, redistribution of resources, senior care, gun control, education, and environmental justice. She is interested in making change both through her grassroots campaign and through a community-based participatory democracy once elected and has drafted policy on each of her HARLEM platform points. Find out more and get involved at KristinForHarlem.com.

Candidate for NY City Council District 9 (Central Harlem) Kristin for H.A.R.L.E.M. aka KRJ visit www.KristinForHarlem.com

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