Abolition Working Group

Charleston Local Chapter’s abolition working group believes that policing and prisons do not make us safe. Reforms do not work because policing is inherently tied to anti-blackness, racism, white supremacy, and the oppression of the working class by a capitalist system. We believe in building stable, strong communities that do not rely on these systems by exposing and fighting against these oppressive systems and by achieving safety and justice in our communities through transformative justice, conflict resolution training, community care, and mutual aid. 


“I don’t know anyone doing anti-prison work who is not focused on economics and economics justice and capitalism, who you would consider an abolitionist. You’ve got to. These things reinforce each other and are co-constitutive…[the prison system is] a symptom of the capitalist state’s interest in consolidating power and wealth…If you’re interested in abolishing capitalism you have to work to end the PIC. You just do. It’s not separate. It’s the same fight.” – Mariame Kaba

“Abolition has to be “green”. It has to take seriously the problem of environmental harm, environmental racism, and environmental degradation. To be “green” it has to be “red.” It has to figure out ways to generalize the resources needed for well-being for the most vulnerable people in our community, which then will extend to all people. And to do that, to be “green” and “red,” it has to be international. It has to stretch across borders so that we can consolidate our strength, our experience, and our vision for a better world.” – Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Our work towards PIC abolition is informed by the many black women who have continued to lead this conversation for the past decade. Abolitionist thinkers and organizers, including Angela Davis, Mariame Kaba, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore encourage us to recognize the scope of the fight for abolition and to understand how the fight to end capitalism and all other systems of oppression are intertwined with the abolition of the prison industrial complex. This is because many of these systems are maintained or perpetuated by incarceration, surveillance, and policing (cops, cages, and cameras).

Charleston DSA co-sponsored the July 2019 Lights for Liberty rally in North Charleston, which was part of a nationwide vigil against immigrant detention camps.
Charleston DSA co-sponsored the July 2019 Lights for Liberty rally in North Charleston, which was part of a nationwide vigil against immigrant detention camps.

Abolitionists fight to end carceral state violence includes the fight to eliminate police and prisons. In response, people who are new to the conversation express concerns about safety and justice falling by the wayside, and abolitionists are frequently asked the question, “What about the rapists and the murderers?”. This question has long been considered by abolitionists, and this article goes into more detail. Another good place to start is to begin looking critically at the PIC’s ability to provide safety and justice, redefining safety and justice from punishment/punitive methods to using a transformative justice framework, and recognizing what resources and skill sets would allow us to achieve safety and justice in our own communities. Ruth Wilson Gilmore emphasizes that “abolition is about presence not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions”. And another abolitionist scholar echoes this sentiment by stating, “In this sense, abolition is not merely a practice of negation — a collective attempt to eliminate institutionalized dominance over targeted peoples and populations — but also a radically imaginative, generative, and socially productive communal (and community-building) practice. Abolition seeks (as it performs) a radical reconfiguration of justice, subjectivity, and social formation that does not depend on the existence of either the carceral state (a statecraft that institutionalizes various forms of targeted human capture) or carceral power as such (a totality of state-sanctioned and extrastate relations of gendered racial-colonial dominance).” [Rodriguez]

The Charleston-DSA’s Prison & Police Abolition working group is excited to figure out how we can join the fight for abolition in a way that we are uniquely positioned to do so. Our work will be reflective of our anti-capitalist stance and a belief that our economy and society should be run democratically. This working group will determine a strategy for directly pushing forward steps toward abolition, while partnering with other chapter working groups to fight for abolition on multiple fronts (eg. housing, environment). We stand in solidarity with the uprisings that have happened locally and nationwide in support of the Movement for Black Lives and PIC abolition, and we hope to continue adding fuel to the fire as we begin the slow process of organizing to sustain a base of people who will continue strategizing toward PIC Abolition. Please check out this interview with local abolitionists that discusses what abolition means and the way you can support local movements. 

Other Resources:

3 Part Abolition 101 Socialists Night school

Interested in getting involved? Have questions about what abolition means? Email abolition@charlestondsa.org