I’ve been covering abolitionist community organizing since I started at the Reader in 2016. It was closing on a year since the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing was released and many in Chicago were grappling with fundamental questions about the utility of policing. Abolitionists had organized movements and mutual aid groups in the city for decades, but that summer it seemed like the general public was finally curious to understand what it meant when they said we could live “in a world without police.”
As the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis once again raise questions about what we really need cops for, this might be as good a time as any to consider or reconsider what abolitionists have been trying to get us to see. It’s easy to dismiss prison and police abolition as unrealistic and out of touch, but if one is seriously interested in figuring out how to keep communities safe while reducing violence and other crime, abolitionists offer a plethora of practical ideas. As many of them have pointed out to me over the years, prisons and police don’t do anything to make many neighborhoods safer and more stable, so here are some stories about other ways we could be using our time and resources.