Prison abolition movement
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The prison abolition movement is a movement that seeks to reduce or eliminate prisons and the prison system, and replace them with more humane and effective systems. Not to be confused with prison reform, which is the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons; though, relying on prisons less can significantly improve their conditions by eliminating overcrowding.:3
Some organizations such as the Anarchist Black Cross seek total abolishment of the prison system, not intending to replace it with other government controlled systems. Anarchist organizations believe that the best form of justice arises naturally out of social contracts. However, many supporters for prison abolition intend to replace it with other systems, reducing prisons to a smaller role in society.
Advocates for prison abolition 
Historically, Quakers were among the first advocates for alternatives to prison.
Anarchist groups such as Anarchist Black Cross have played a significant part in the prison abolition movement and this trend continues today. Anarchists wish to eliminate all forms of state control, of which imprisonment is seen as one of the more obvious examples. Anarchists also oppose prisons because they house non-violent offenders (e.g., thieves and swindlers instead of just murderers and rapists), incarcerate mainly poor people and ethnic minorities, and do not generally rehabilitate criminals, in many cases making them worse. As a result, the prison abolition movement often is associated with humanistic socialism, anarchism and anti-authoritarianism.
Prison reforms and alternatives 
Proposals for prison reform and proposed alternatives to prisons differ significantly depending on the political beliefs behind them. Proposals and tactics often include:
- Penal system reforms:
- Prison condition reforms
- Crime prevention rather than punishment
- Abolition of specific programs which increase prison population, such as the prohibition of drugs (e.g. War on Drugs), gun control, prohibition of prostitution, and alcohol restrictions.
- Education programs to inform people who have never been in prison about the problems
- Fighting individual cases of wrongful conviction
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published a series of handbooks on criminal justice. Among them is Alternatives to Imprisonment which identifies how the overuse of imprisonment impacts fundamental human rights, especially those convicted for lesser crimes.
Abolitionist views 
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (March 2008)|
In place of prisons, some abolitionists propose community-controlled courts, councils, or assemblies to control the problem of social crime.[who?] They argue that with the destruction of capitalism, and the self-management of production by workers and communities, property crimes would largely vanish. A large part of the problem, according to some, is the way the judicial system deals with prisoners, people and capital. They argue that there would be fewer prisoners if society treated people more fairly, regardless of gender, color, ethnic background, sexual orientation, education, etc.
Arguments made for prison abolition 
- Lack of proper legal representation
"Eighty percent of people accused of crimes [in the United States] are unable to afford a lawyer to defend them." The US Supreme Court held in 1963 that a poor person facing felony charges "cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him." "Long Term Neglect and underfunding of indigent defense have created a crisis of extra ordinary proportions in many states throughout the country."
- War on drugs conceals racial tension
(2005) "The United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated in federal and state correctional facilities. There are currently more than 2 million people in American prisons or jails. Approximately one-quarter of those people held in U.S. prisons or jails have been convicted of a drug offense. The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other country. With an estimated 6.8 million Americans struggling with drug abuse or dependence, the growth of the prison population continues to be driven largely by incarceration for drug offenses."  "The so-called drug war was started in the 1980s and it was aimed directly at the black population. None of this has anything to do with drugs. It has to do with controlling and criminalizing dangerous populations.""Blacks are 12.3 percent of the U.S. population (2001) but they comprise fully half of the roughly 2 million Americans currently behind Bars. On any given day, 30 percent of African-American males aged 20- 29 are "under correctional supervision." Blacks constitute 13 percent of all drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of persons convicted, and 74 percent of people sent to prison.
- Incarceration is socially and economically crippling to the convicted and the community.
"Each Prisoner represents an economic asset that has been removed from that community and placed elsewhere. As an economic being, the person would spend money at or near his or her area of residence- typically, an inner city. Imprisonment displaces that economic activity: Instead of buying snacks in a local deli, the prisoner makes those purchases in a prison commissary. The removal may represent a loss of economic value to the home community, but it is a boon to the prison [host] community. Each prisoner represents as much as $25,000 in income for the community in which the prison is located, not to mention the value of constructing the prison facility in the first place. This can be a massive transfer of value: a young male worth a few thousand dollars of support to children and local purchases is transformed into a $25,000 financial asset to a rural prison community. The economy of the rural community is artificially amplified, the local city economy is artificially deflated."
Unfortunately, there are no definitive national statistics on the employment status of felons. But both anecdotal evidence and fragmentary data confirm what common sense would predict: individuals who have been incarcerated have great difficulty securing employment when they return to society. Except for a short period in the late 1990s, when the labor market was so tight that the Wall Street Journal reported on employer efforts to reach out to felons, those leaving prison have faced formidable obstacles to employment. Some of these difficulties are related to company policies or procedures and others are the result of employer perceptions of felons' job skills or trustworthiness. Felons are also barred from public employment in a number of states, including three with a high proportion of African American residents (Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina). Occupations that are licensed by states also have restrictions on allowing felons to work in them.
- It is argued[who?] that the prison system is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and which is prescribing life, liberty, equality and justice to all people without discrimination of any sort. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has also abolished all forms of slavery and genocide, including torture, repression and oppression that prisons thrive upon.
- Prisons may be less effective at discouraging crimes and/or compensating victims than other forms of punishment.
- Degree and quality of access to justice depends on the financial resources of the accused.
- Prisons alienate people from their communities.
- In the U.S., people of color and from the lower class are much more likely to be imprisoned than people of European descent or people who are wealthy.
- People who are put in prison for what are arguably crimes motivated by need, such as some minor theft (food, etc.) or prostitution, find it much harder to obtain legal employment once convicted of a crime. Arguably, this difficulty makes it more likely they will find themselves back in the prison system, having had few other options or resources available to support themselves and/or their families. Many prison abolitionists argue that we should "legalize survival" and provide help to those who need it instead of making it even harder to find work and perpetuating the non-violent crimes.
- Prisons are not proven to make people less violent. In fact, there is evidence that they may instead promote violence in individuals by surrounding them with other violent criminals, which can lead to predictable negative/violent results.
- Drug-related offenders are being ushered in and out of the prison system like a revolving door. Rather than educate, and rehabilitate the offender to a clean path of sobriety and increased stature, the state ignores them.
Opponents of the abolition argue that none of the above arguments addresses the protection of non-criminal population from the effects of crime, and from particularly violent criminals.
Women and prison 
According to The Sentencing Project, as of 2007, the number of women incarcerated in prisons has more than doubled the rate of their male counterparts since 1985  Many prison abolitionist view women's entry and exit from prison as a reflection of women's status in the general populations’ society, This view is further highlighted with statistics offered by The Sentencing Project on women's incarceration. As of 2007, the most statistically significant results discussed by The Sentencing Project include:
- 59 % of women who are incarcerated in prison were convicted of a property or drug crime, while only 40% of men incarcerated in prison were convicted a property or drug crime.
- 35 % of women incarcerated in prisons were convicted of violent offenses, while 53% of men were convicted 
- Women are twice as likely as men to victimize someone they know.
- Between the years 1986 and 1996 drug offenses counted for 49% of the women in prisons.
- While the rate women used drugs declined in the years from 1986 to 1996 the number of women in prison for drug offenses increased by 888%, while the other non-drug offenses only rose 129% during the same time period.
- 33% of women, in 1998, stated they committed the crime they were in jail for in order to obtain money to buy drugs.
- 40% of women in prison for the year of 1998 reported using drugs at the time they were put in prison, while only 32% of men claimed this.
- In the year 2005, 73.1% of women in prison had a mental health problem, 55% of their male counterparts had a mental health problem.
- 57% of women who were in prison claimed to have experienced physical abuse or sexual abuse prior to their incarceration.
- 68% of prison physicians stated that women prisoners in their prison had access to elective abortions.
The above list is just a fraction of the gender disparities, noted in anti-prison literature, seen between male and female inmates who are in prison. Some of the disparities are attributed to the high percentage of males in charge of the justice and correctional systems and sexism. As seen in the statistics presented above sexism is an argument many prison abolitionist take on as a reason to abolish prisons. Prisons for women, according to the statistics and prison abolition movement, are sexist and therefore inherently violate their rights to due process. This argument is seen often in the claims for women who are in prison for killing an abusive partner  The disparities seen in mental health and drug convictions also follow this trend and are also important arguments used by the prison abolition movement.
Illicit drugs and prison 
One of the major issues that many prison abolitionists have with prisons is the significant increase in the number of people incarcerated due to mandatory sentencing and penalties for individuals involved in the drug trade. Many claim the fact that the rise from 41,000 to 500,000 people in prison since 1980 for drug related charges shows the ineffective nature of prisons. The supposed ineffective nature of prisons in this instance provides those within the movement an explanation as to why prisons should be abolished. The majority of these charges are due to what many in the anti-prison movement term unreasonable mandatory penalties that "impose a ‘one size fits all’ sentencing structure [which] fails to account for the individual circumstances of the offender and the offense."  One of the major drugs that prison abolitionist target as a prime example for why prisons are ineffective is crack. Crack is a drug that is cheap and is derived from cocaine. Crack has been the focus of many debates in relation to the harshness of prison sentences because the penalty of being caught with crack is much greater than with cocaine. The ramification of these harsh sentences is that it affects the street peddler instead of the drug lords and kingpins. In the eyes of many abolitionists the system also places too much fault with these lower-level trafficking individuals instead of targeting the whole complex hierarchy within the trade. A problem with targeting lower-level individuals in the drug market is that it presents a racial bias and provides another reason for the abolition of prisons. According to The Sentencing Project, ⅔ of the users of crack cocaine in the U.S. are Hispanic and/or White. While their lower level distributors are from the same racial/ethnic background, the majority of the those being locked up are people of color; in 2006, 81.8% of the defendants in crack cases were African American. In recent months the prison abolitionist have obtained some very important, though unintended, supporters. President Barack Obama of the U.S. has "declared that 'the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.'" Recently, the American Medical Association (AMA) stated that marijuana should be classified as a lesser class of narcotic because of its invaluable medicinal properties. These are seen as very important steps in reducing the strain on society by wrongful incarceration and provide support for prison abolitionist claims.
Mental illness and prison 
Many prison abolitionists take issue with the fact that prisons are used as a "default asylum" for many individuals with mental illness. Somewhere between 30 to 40% of mentally ill individuals in jail and in prison have had no criminal charges placed. One question that is often asked by some prison abolitionists is:
"why do governmental units choose to spend billions of dollars a year to concentrate people with serious illnesses in a system designed to punish intentional lawbreaking, when doing so matches neither the putative purposes of that system nor most effectively addresses the issues posed by that population?" 
This question is often one of the major pieces of evidence that prison abolitionist claim highlights the depravity of the penal system. Many of these prison abolitionists often state that mentally ill offenders, violent and non-violent, should be treated in mental hospitals not prisons. By keeping the mentally ill in prisons they claim that rehabilitation cannot occur because prisons are not the correct environment to deal with deep seated psychological problems and facilitate rehabilitative practices. Individuals with mental illnesses that have led them to commit any crime have a much higher chance of committing suicide while in prison because of the lack of proper medical attention. The increased risk of suicide is said to be because there is much stigma around mental illness and lack of adequate treatments within hospitals. The whole point of the penal system is to rehabilitate and reform individuals who have willingly transgressed on the law. According to many prison abolitionists however, when mentally ill persons, often for reasons outside of their cognitive control, commit illegal acts prisons are not the best place for them to receive the help necessary for their rehabilitation. For many prison abolitionists, if for no other reason than the fact that mentally ill individuals will not be receiving the same potential for rehabilitation as the non-mentally ill prison population, prisons are considered to be unjust and therefore violate their Sixth Amendment and Fifth Amendment Rights, in the U.S., and their chance to rehabilitate and function outside of the prison. By violating individual’s rights to rehabilitation prison abolitionist see no reason for prisons to exist and offers just one more reason people with the movement demand for the abolition of prisons. In America, by violating an individual's rights as a citizen prison abolitionist see no reason for prisons to exist and, again, offers another reason people within the movement demand for the abolition of prisons.
See also 
List of organizations supporting prison abolition 
- Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
- Anarchist Black Cross
- Anarchist Prisoners' Legal Aid Network
- Critical Resistance
- International Socialist Organization
- Journal of Prisoners on Prisons
- Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
- Socialist Resistance
- Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC)
Relevant people and topics 
- Handbook of basic principles and promising practices on Alternatives to Imprisonment. United Nations. April 2007. ISBN 978-92-1-148220-1.
- Herivel and Wright, Prison Nation. Routledge, 2003. p.6.
- Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," (Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 1. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08_01_REP_DrugTx_AC-PS.pdf
- Herivel and Wright, Prison Nation. Routledge, 2003. p.56.
- Herivel and Wright, Prison Nation. Routledge, 2003. p.31.
- [dead link]
- Clear, Todd. "Backfire: When Incarceration Increases Crime". in The Unintended consequences of Incarceration. New York: Vera Institute of Justice, January 1996
- Margaret C. Simms, "JOINT CENTER FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES" MAY/JUNE 2004 pg7"
- Andrews and Bonta, 2003[title missing][page needed]
- Tyler, Tracey (August 12, 2007). "Access to justice a 'basic right'". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Public Interest Law Institute – Indigent Defense Systems in the United States
- "Prison population statistics". Archived from the original on 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
- MotherJones.com – Debt to Society
- The Sentencing Project. May 2007. "Women in the Criminal Justice System." The Sentencing Project: Research and Advocacy for Reform. Retrieved November 10, 2009 ().
- Chang, Judy. Creinin, Mitchell. and Sufrin, Mitchell. 2009. "Incarcerated Women and Abortion Provision: A Survey of Correctional Health Providers." Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health. 41(1): 6–11.
- Moller, Lars. Gatherer, Alex. And van den Bergh, Brenda. June 2009. "Women's health in prison: urgent need for improvement in gender equity and social justice." Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 87(6): 406.
- Zupan, Linda. 1992. "Men Guarding Women: An Analysis of the Employment of Male Correction Officers in Prisons for Women." Journal of Criminal Justice. 20(4): 297–309.
- Mauer, Marc. "The Impact of Mandatory Sentencing Policies in the United States." The Sentencing Project: Research and Advocacy For Reform. Retrieved November 12, 2009 ().
- Elkavich, Amy. and Moore, Lisa. 2008. "Who's Using and Who's Doing Time: Incarceration, the War on Drugs, and Public Health." American Journal of Public Health. 98: 782–786. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.126284.
- The Sentencing Project. 2009. "Federal Crack Cocaine Sentencing." The Sentencing Project: Research and Advocacy For Reform.().
- AMA. November 2009. "Report 6 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A01) Full Text: Medical Marijuana." American Medical Association. ().
- Pustilnik, Amanda. 2005. "Prisons of the Mind: Social Value and Economic Inefficiency in the Criminal Justice Response to Mental Illness."The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.96(1): 217–265.
- Rollin, Henry. 2006. "The Mentally Ill Should Be in Hospital, not in Jail." The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology. 17(2): 326–329.
- Ahmed, Mukhtar. Bowen, Andy. and Graham, Tanya. et al. 2007. "The Identifications and Management of Suicide Risk in Local Prisons." Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology. 18(3): 368–380.
- Harvard Law Review. February 2008. "Developments in the Law: The Law of Mental Illness." Harvard Law Review. 121(4):1114–1191.
- European abolitionists on "future of abolitionism"
- Prison abolition & alternatives
- ZNet article on Prison Abolition
- Prison Abolition pamphlet
- Radical Alternatives to Prison
- Article calling for abolition of prisons by conservative author Gary North