Cops are everywhere in pop culture. It's not just The First 48, or the true-crime canon. "Friendly" cops surface even when we don't pay them any mind. Woody from Toy Story: a whole sheriff. The beloved Winston of New Girl: an embarrassingly awful rookie cop.
While it can be easy to dismiss TV as a lesser medium, we see pop culture as an opportunity to wrestle with overdue shifts around policing and justice.
And so we present to you pop justice, Scalawag's ongoing series that breaks down the ways popular culture—music, film, television, TikTok, journalism, and more—upholds the police state and ultimately stalls conversations on abolition.
For Scalawag's 3rd annual Abolition Week, pop justice exclusively features perspectives from currently and formerly incarcerated folks and systems-impacted folks. Tune through June 24th for more essays, videos, podcasts, and letters from the inside.
How the true crime shows and police dramas we watch rely on the status quo of the carceral state. Their success depends on it.
I was on The First 48. Your true-crime obsession is based on lies.
After 12 years of seeing false narratives play out about him on The First 48, Demetrius Buckley calls out true crime for what it really is: exploitation that reruns peoples' worst moments for profit.
'I'll never have closure.' What TV gets wrong about having a dad in prison.
For the 5 million people with an incarcerated parent, prison dramas depict everything but the hard realities of blame and closure families face.
First-hand accounts of the lived experiences of incarcerated people and how the media shapes those experiences—from their arrest, to their time inside, to re-entry.
This couple wants you to know that conjugal visits are only legal in 4 states
There are only four U.S. states that currently allow conjugal visits. Couple Steve Higginbotham and Jordana Rosenfeld discuss the rules strangling intimacy on the inside.
'An unmanned, evil environment': Ashley Diamond and other trans women on life inside prison
From understaffing to "the meat show" to the art of pretty-making in prison, trans women share the realities of life inside prison.
How music shapes our understanding of crime and policing.
'Impact of an Icon': Grieving Young Dolph in South Memphis
Up and coming rapper South Memphis Babyface reflects on losing Young Dolph, "somebody I looked up to, somebody that inspired the world."
'I don't want people to judge me by the music that I rap.' How RICO threatens freedom of speech
From inside a Mississippi prison, Lil Mobb shares new songs and a desire to not be judged by the music he raps.
Hooked on Copaganda: What CoComelon actually teaches kids about police
Showing cop toys and cop futures in their favorite pretend classroom teaches children police are safe when stories from the real world counter this almost daily.
Supporting abolitionist media that listens to systems-impacted people and imagines a world beyond police.
The abolitionist podcast that reveals how little you know about prison
For something realer than any episode of Orange is the New Black, check out Teleway 411, a new podcast on queer life in prison from A.B.O. Comix.
Read, Watch, Listen, Do: An Abolitionist Media Guide
From music to movies to podcasts, this guide to abolitionist media will help you understand the harms of the carceral state.
Four headline mistakes newsrooms need to abolish
No matter what a newsroom's bent is, at minimum, journalists have a responsibility to hold power to account—including in their headlines.
Breaking down the ways that history has colored our perceptions of prisons and policing today—and what it can tell us about the future.
Contrary to popular belief, healthcare in prison is far from free. Sometimes, it can cost your life.
Seven states in the nation—all in the South—prohibit those in prison from making money yet still charge medical fees. The physical and financial costs can follow incarcerated workers for years.
What the history books won't tell you about abolition
From the Quakers to the Black Panthers to your neighborhood sex workers, as long as there's been police, communities have created their own systems to replace them.
Revisit Abolition Week 2021:
This collection of stories is designed to support you in your understanding of the abolitionist framework, from theory to practice. No matter where you find yourself between background and action, there are tools to help you on the path to the next step.