Building Your Abolitionist Toolbox

Everyday Resources for a Punishment-Free World

Graphic notes by Laura Chow Reeve / Radical Roadmaps

Beyond Courts

with Community Justice Exchange, Interrupting Criminalization & Critical Resistance

As demands to divest from policing and invest in non-police community-based and accountable safety strategies have become the subject of broader discussion, several organizing campaigns have expanded defund demands to include courts, prosecutors' offices, and other machinery of the criminal punishment system.

In this workshop, hosted by Community Justice Exchange, Interrupting Criminalization, and Critical Resistance, we explore why the abolition of the prison-industrial complex necessarily requires abolition of the criminal court system. Together, we’ll learn how criminal courts serve as the machinery of prosecution, punishment, and surveillance, feeding people into prisons, probation, and other forms of surveillance and control. We’ll discuss the interventions organizers and community members are already making to shift and build power while criminal courts still exist, like reforming bail and pre-trial detention policies. We’ll present the reformist detours to avoid that serve to only move us farther away from abolition - like campaigns to elect and defend "progressive prosecutors," and calls for the establishment and expansion of court-based diversion programs - while highlighting the organizing campaigns and interventions that might get us closer.