The following is a brief but thorough statement on prisons and those who would contest them. It offers a broad critique of many commonly-held assumptions and positions that could characterize leftist and anarchist political practice with regard to prison and prisoners. In particular we chose to reprint the article here (it originally appeared in the magazine Fire to the Prisons #10) because of its poignant criticism of the prison “abolitionist” movement which has grown in the last few years.
While we recognize that not all prison abolitionists are the same, this movement has predominantly portrayed itself as an attempt to “shrink” the Prison-Industrial Complex into non-existence while gradually replacing the prison with other less brutal (but, inevitably, state-controlled or sanctioned) insitutions. This means not so much the dissapearance of prisons but the permeation of their
mechanisms (constant surveillance, the militarization of police, etc.) throughout all of society. It indicates not prison abolition but prison ablation: the removal of one aspect of an oppressive body politic while all the structures that gave rise to it remain.
Unfortunately, some anarchists have taken up not only the rhetoric of the prison abolitionist movement, but even its methods: policy campaigns, the negotiation of demands, the separation of political from social prisoners, appeals to amnesty and innocence, the avoidance of engaging with actually rebellious prisoners on the inside. In other words, those tactics characteristic of a gradualist approach.
As revolutionaries, we believe there are other options. As demonstrated by recent waves of demonstrations outside jails and prisons which declare proudly “Free All Prisoners,” not to mention the massive strike that shook Georgia prisons last December, or even the repeatedly successful attacks upon immigrant detention centers in Italy, there are other ways to attack the prison that do not necessitate capitulation or ablation. We print this in the hope that such methods will spread, and the ideas behind them will find good soil in which to grow.
-the NC Piece Corps