Prison Abolition Collective spreads awareness of mass incarceration

By Hayley Johnson

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Prison Abolition Collective organized a photo campaign held in the lobby of the Student Union Wednesday from 10 to 3 p.m. today that will continue at the same time on Thursday.

The collective is comprised of about 11 members and was established in December 2016. It was formed as a subgroup of the Racial Justice Coalition.

The group had whiteboards with “I support prison abolition because…” written across them and encouraged students to finish the statement and pose for a photo with the board.

The photos will be displayed on social media to increase visibility and get the word out about the organization.

PAC was formed to “seek to end the prison industrial complex and all forms of incarceration” according to factsheets displayed alongside the photo campaign.

The group suggested the main alternative to incarceration is restorative justice.

“The concept of restorative justice is an alternative to incarceration, where communities talk to people when conflicts arise and come up with a solution within the community,” said Josie Pinto, a senior public health sciences and women, gender and sexuality studies major and a member of PAC since the beginning of the spring semester. “I think it’s important because incarceration is really not a solution in terms of actually changing people. It just takes people away from their families, it is honestly a waste of valuable time in life.”

“I believe in prison abolition because I think that there are and should be solutions for finding alternatives to deal with incidents when they arise,” she said. “Everyone makes mistakes, but prisons disproportionally impact marginalized folks. White people tend to get off a lot easier. The differences in sentences is huge. So in a lot of ways, mass incarceration is a new form of slavery.”

Nathalie Amazan, a freshman legal studies and political science major and a founding member of PAC, explained the discrimination of the system, specifically against African Americans and Latinos.

“Los Angeles has just adopted restorative justice throughout all their public schools. So when a kid does something wrong in class, instead of getting suspended they sit in a community circle and talk with their teachers and counselors and get to the root of the problem. And that’s been shown to decrease disciplinary problems,” Amazan said. “So I think that if we use that model and work it into the big prison system we could see just a better society for everybody.”

One of the factsheets PAC had displayed read, “taxpayers pay over $80 billion to the prison system instead of education and housing.”

“The costs of prisons themselves are huge. If we didn’t have so much money tied up in prisons, our government would have a lot more money to spend elsewhere,” Pinto said. “So purely from an economic standpoint, and from a personal and empathetic standpoint, it’s just inhumane.”

Madeline Gloade, freshman legal studies and English major with a Spanish minor, participated in the campaign, holding up a whiteboard reading: “I support prison abolition because my father was once arrested for being a POC [Person of Color] with a nice car.”

“As everyone basically knows, there’s still a lot of racism in the world, especially in America,” Gloade said.

“We are from New York and he [my father] was literally just waiting to pick up my sister from my grandmother’s house and a police man came up, ordered him out of the car and said that he stole it for no reason whatsoever,” Gloade added.

Editor’s Note: The Prison Abolition Collective was formed from the Racial Justice Coalition, a currently active organization.

Hayley Johnson can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.