PREFACE

Many prison reformists yearn for the end of imprisonment but find themselves confronted by questions which seem difficult to answer:

As some of these important questions are addressed, we will discover that many reforms can be achieved in an abolition context. The primary issue for abolitionists is not always one of reform over/against abolition. There are "surface reforms" which legitimize or strengthen the prison system, and there are "abolishing-type reforms" which gradually diminish its power and function. Realizing the differences requires some radical shifts in our perceptions, lest we fall into the trap which has plagued earlier generations. Our goal is to replace prison, not improve it.

Many criticisms of abolition arise from confusion about time sequences. Prisons are a present reality; abolition is a long range goal. How do we hasten the demise of prisons while creating an alternative which is consistent with our ideals?

We perceive the abolition of prisons as a long range goal, which, like justice, is an ever continuing struggle. Tho voices for abolition have been raised over the centuries, until today no cohesive movement for abolition of prisons has emerged. We have observed how countless revolutions have emptied the prisons, only to fill them up again with a different class of prisoner. Our goal, on the other hand, is to eliminate the keeper, not merely to switch the roles of keepers and kept.

As Americans of varying backgrounds and ages, we are required to re-evaluate: (1) our society and its relationship to those it labels "criminal;" (2) our personal values and attitudes about prisoners and the prison system; (3) our commitment to wider social change. It is important that we learn to conceptualize how a series of abolition-type reforms, partial abolitions of the system, and particular alternatives can lead toward the elimination of prisons. Abolitionists advocate maximum amounts of caring for all people (including the victims of crime) and minimum intervention in the lives of all people, including lawbreakers. In the minds of some, this may pose a paradox, but not for us, because we examine the underlying causes of crime and seek new responses to build a safer community. The abolitionist ideology is based on economic and social justice for all, concern for all victims, and reconciliation within a caring community.

This handbook is written for those who feel it is time to say "no" to prisons, for those open to the notion that the only way to reform the prison system is to dismantle it, for those who seek a strategy to get us from here to there.

Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists was also written for ourselves—a small group of the already convinced-who have gathered together to clarify and record the insights gleaned from our prison experiences. "We" are ex-prisoners, prison changers, prison visitors, families of prisoners, prison teachers-all allies to those in cages. This handbook speaks for us as "abolitionists."

Dissatisfaction with the present prison system is widespread. Thruout the country innovative projects are being tried. While nearly all of these efforts are open to criticism, we view them hopefully, as steps toward abolition. We describe and evaluate as many of these projects as space allows, in the belief that they suggest many ways in which work can be started right now toward the abolition of prisons.

A successful movement to abolish prisons will grow thru the joining of those who have experienced the system from "inside" the walls with those on the "outside" who are willing to undertake the leap from palliative reform to abolition.

This handbook endeavors to provide a wide range of concepts, strategies, and practical education-action tools. It is of equal importance that we establish perspectives to guide us in defining caring community, while moving away from the era of mega-prisons into confrontation with many more subtle instruments of control and coercion.

You will find a list of resources and recommended readings for abolitionists, as well as a scattering of "Abolition Papers" which can be reproduced for wider distribution. PREAP will continue to issue these occasional papers as the abolition movement progresses.

This handbook was designed for training abolitionists. It is divided into sections according to concepts to be understood and strategies to be developed. There is some deliberate repetition for the purpose of reinforcement. A manual for organizing abolition workshops based on concepts in this handbook is included in the list of resources. We envision these workshops as a medium for bringing together persons who are seriously committed to the goal of diminishing and eliminating the role of prisons in our society.

The ensuing pages provide information and material to facilitate that process. It is a beginning. May our shared experience complete the succeeding chapters.