“Abolition politics is about finding solutions to social problems other than carceral or criminal punishment,” explains Associate Professor Tamara Nopper.
Tamara Nopper is RIC associate professor of sociology and editor of the New York Times bestseller “We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice,” by Mariame Kaba (Haymarket Books, 2021).
This is a collection of essays and interviews by Kaba, a major figure in abolitionist organizing, in which she reflects on her abolitionist work and her political struggle to end the carceral system.
Nopper explains that abolitionists not only wish to put an end to the prison system, they refute any form of criminal punishment, such as ankle monitors, digital prisons, electronic prisons or detention because these methods still keep people under carceral control. Any carceral system that is inherently inhumane, that does not rehabilitate, only perpetuates harm, she says.
“The current system isn’t working,” Nopper says. “The so-called solutions – those things we’re told will fix harm – are actually causing new harms.”
“Abolition politics seeks justice beyond the punishment system and encourages people to look at more humane ways of dealing with harm and accountability. Abolition politics is about trying to build new societies that decrease the likelihood of people engaging in harm and that help people become better people and live better lives,” she says.
Nopper took on this project because it was a chance to work with Kaba, someone she deeply admires, and to contribute to the political conversation.
“At heart, I’m an educator and I’m often thinking about how to gather information that will help people make thoughtful analyses,” she says. “This is a way to make that information available in a single book. It’s also one of the first books about abolitionist politics and organizing designed for a general audience.”
In addition, in 2021 Nopper contributed to a book titled “Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future without Policing & Prisons,” edited and published by the former NFL quarterback turned civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is known for taking a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in 2016 to bring attention to systemic oppressions, specifically racial injustice and police brutality against Black and Brown people. For his stance, he has been denied employment by the league.
Since 2016 Kaepernick has founded and helped to fund three organizations: Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media and Kaepernick Publishing.
His book “Abolition for the People,” printed by Kaepernick Publishing, is a manifesto calling for a world beyond policing and prisons. The collection includes over 30 essays representing a broad array of voices and experiences, including political prisoners, grassroots and formerly incarcerated community organizers, scholars and family members of those killed by the anti-Black terrorism of policing and prisons.