What you need to know:
- “Abolition for the People” is the first book released under Kaepernick Publishing.
- Reforms seek to tweak the system. Abolition seeks to dismantle it.
- The U.S. strongly considered prison abolition in the 1970s.
“Abolition for the People: The Movement For A Future Without Policing & Prisons” is now available in print, e-book and audio formats.
Edited by civil rights activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it represents the first book released under Kaepernick Publishing. The release comes five years after Kaepernick, who had played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.
Colin Kaepernick intends to build a better world
Kaepernick paid severely for his activism. Despite joining the rankings of some of the most notable quarterbacks in NFL history, the 49ers chose to release him following the 2016 season. He remained an unsigned free agent throughout the 2017 season, which led to accusations that he was being blackballed from the league. Moreover, then-President Donald Trump called him a “son of a b*tch”.
By 2019, Kaepernick had reached a private settlement with the NFL after no team would sign him. Since then, he’s focused his energy toward the pursuit of social and racial justice. He’s partnered with NIKE and other high-profile brands to elevate the calls for transformational change.
Now, two years after launching Kaepernick Publishing, the release of “Abolition for the People” intends to utilize a new generation of writers with diverse views to “build a better and more just world,” according to their website.
What is prison abolition?
When people hear the word “abolition,” slavery often comes to mind. The fight to abolish slavery represents one of humanity’s most important achievements. Yet, abolition itself is simply the act of ending a practice or institution. It can be applied to various systems. Loosely, prison abolitionists believe incarceration harms society more than it helps. Alternatives to incarceration include restorative justice, by which communities collectively work with both the victim and the perpetrator of a crime to come to a solution on how to heal the victim and provide restitution.
A 1976 pamphlet, “Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists” detailed three pillars of abolitionism. They include a moratorium or halt on all new prison construction, decarceration or a mass release of prisoners who don’t represent a threat to society, and excarceration, which means finding ways to divert people away from the prison-industrial complex.
At one time in the U.S., prison abolition almost became a mainstream concept, due largely to the work of civil rights trailblazer Angela Davis.
“My question is, Why are people so quick to assume that locking away an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. population would help those who live in the free world feel safer and more secure?” Davis once asked, according to the Harvard Gazette.
Davis, a longtime prison abolitionist, began her career as an unapologetic communist professor in California. She rose to fame in the 1970s after a gun she purchased was used in an armed takeover of a courtroom in Marin County, California. The 1970 trial involved a Black Panther.
Davis overcame murder charge to lead as prison abolitionist
Jonathan Jackson attempted to free his brother, George, a member of the Black Panthers. Jackson smuggled guns into the Marin County Courthouse during the proceeding of another Black Panther. Jackson armed convicts and took the judge, deputy district attorney, and three jurors as hostages, according to archives from the University of California – Los Angelos (UCLA). During the escape, the judge and several convicts were killed in an exchange of gunfire.
The guns were registered by Angela Davis, who had ties to the brothers.
On the run, the FBI eventually added Davis to their most wanted list. She became only the third woman to ever make the list. After her capture, Davis gained nationwide and international support. Charged with murder and kidnapping, she pleaded not guilty. Ultimately, with the help of high-profile, communist attorneys, an all-White jury found her not guilty of being complicit in the murders that took place.
Since then, she’s written books, spoken at conferences, and has continued to teach college students about prison abolition.
Decades ago, the U.S. strongly considered prison abolition
Notably, in the 1970s the idea of abolishing prisons was actually catching steam. Newly published books highlighted how, despite having the world’s highest incarceration rate, the United States was not the safest country on Earth. Organizations began to endorse a moratorium on all new prison construction. At least one Republican Senator began to have a change of heart.
In 1972, Congressman Stewart McKinney spent 36 hours in a prison to understand the other side. According to the Associated Press, the congressman “emerged from prison an emotionally strained man.”
Calling the current prison system a “big waste of money and human life,” McKinney told reporters “I can’t see consigning any human being to this kind of existence.”
Yet, decades later, the United States continues to hold a quarter of the world’s prisoners despite only making up five percent of the world’s population.
“This is a measure of how difficult it is to envision a social order that does not rely on the threat of sequestering people in dreadful places designed to separate them from their communities and their families,” Angela Davis once said. “The prison is considered so natural and so normal that it is extremely hard to imagine life without them.”
Likewise, calls to abolish the current system of policing have faced obstacles, as well. Calls for reforms, such as better training, bodycams, and more oversight have been tried and implemented, yet police continue to kill 1,000 civilians on average each year, according to Mapping Police Violence.
As debates rage on how to solve the epidemic of police lynchings and mass incarceration, Kaepernick Publishing hopes to educate a new generation of readers on what abolition could look like in 2021 and beyond.
To order “Abolition for the People” visit Kaepernickpublishing.com.