On the question of how to abolish policing and imprisonment without ending up with something worse—
—and while I admit that it takes some energy to imagine something worse than what’s happening now, truly it can always get worse—
—let’s say, short version, we need better laws. We need the entire system of laws to be geared towards care, rather than coercion. As long as the laws are inhumane, law enforcement will be inhumane.
Longer version: the justice system is much bigger than just the courts and lawyers, the cops, the prisons.
This is not a radical idea. Get into any discussion of, for example, how to make the educational system work better, and it won’t take long before you get to the idea of the educational system being more than the school buildings and teachers and books. The way kids get educated has to do with housing, childcare, food security, healthcare, sanitation, transportation, economic justice, and so forth.
With any other system, it’s the same idea. Healthcare is more than hospitals and drugs, doctors and nurses. The justice system is intertwined with the educational and healthcare systems, all of which are interdependent with housing, sanitation, transportation, occupational safety, disability access, food security, childcare, economics, environmental justice, disaster management, I could go on.
So when I say we need a better system of laws, I mean not just the rules governing how people treat each other, but governing how all of these systems work for the people. In order to get to the question of what comes after police/prison abolition, all of these systems need to do better, meaning they need to take care of the people down to the most vulnerable among us.
Abolish the police and abolish prison, sure. These goals can’t be pursued in a vacuum. We also need to abolish homelessness. Abolish medical debt and medical neglect. Abolish hunger. Abolish illiteracy. Abolish environmental degradation. Abolish child neglect. Abolish dirty water and inadequate plumbing. Abolish abuse of the elderly and of the disabled. Abolish voter suppression and disenfranchisement. Abolish labor exploitation.
As long as the laws are inhumane, law enforcement will be inhumane.