WSW: An "Abolitionist" On Prisons, Police And Youth Incarceration

Jan 11, 2018

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Credit Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Commons

Activist Mariame Kaba says the incarceration rate for juveniles peaked in 1993. While it’s been going down, Kaba has started Project NIA to end all youth incarceration.


Kaba says states enacted a series of reforms to close youth prisons. She says policy makers found that the jails were schools for more criminality. Kaba says young people put in jail learned how to become “better at crime.” She says community based alternatives helped reduce recidivism and youth crime overall. Kaba will speak at the MLK Convocation at Kalamazoo College’s Stetson Chapel Monday morning at 10:50.

Regarding prison, police and surveillance, Kaba calls herself an “abolitionist.” She says that means working toward making people feel that those institutions are not necessary. Kaba says that includes creating alternatives that address harm without the “punishing state.”

Kaba says it’s a “fair question” how society would look without prisons. But she says police and prisons are relatively new in human history. Kaba says prisons were an alternative to capital punishment and corporal punishment. Kaba says prisons go well beyond locking up those who have committed violent crimes. She says a small percentage of inmates are in prison for homicide or sexual assault.

While President Trump promised to be tough on crime and campaigned as a “law and order” candidate, Kaba says she is still “hopeful” if not optimistic about chances for reform. She says criminal punishment is mostly at the municipal and state level. For instance, the state prison population is much bigger than the federal population. Kaba says that leaves a lot of work that can be done without involving the federal government.