We hope that this resource helps to frame the importance of abolition for the public health field and supports public health professionals to identify ways they can support PIC abolition in their work. There are many excellent foundation resources for people who are curious about prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition. The selected resources in this guide are interdisciplinary and include peer-reviewed scholarship, policy change toolkits, videos, podcasts, and more.
Abolition is life-affirming – and that should be an ultimate goal for public health.
Abolitionist scholar and activist, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, teaches us that “abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” Public health education teaches us to transform systems to create well-being for the most people possible. Public health defines health not as merely the absence of disease, but as addressing all of the conditions and determinants that we know create health and well-being at the community and population levels. On its face, public health is working to create the life-affirming institutions that Gilmore challenges us all to build.
Our field has work to do to understand and take action on the ways policing and prisons impede public health.
Logics of policing and prisons are mirrored in many facets of our society, including our public health systems and institutions. In order to best answer the calls by those most impacted we draw from abolitionist organizing and frameworks to end the role of policing, incarceration, and punishment in our health systems. This learning and action guide was developed to respond to the ask from people impacted by the criminal legal system that public health practitioners:
Be responsive to the negative health impacts of the criminal legal system
Change the ways in which public health systems collaborate with, mirror, and increase the scope and legitimacy of the criminal legal system
Use the public health platform to advocate for policy and programs that address root problems of health inequities and invest in true forms of public safety