Abolition means freedom from all forms of policing that shape our relationship to power.
Once a year, Scalawag devotes our platforms to first-hand stories from formerly and currently incarcerated writers and Palestinians living in the world's largest open-air prison. For Abolition Week 2023, their stories explore abolition directly from unique perspectives situated in spaces of state abandonment and violence—both hidden and in plain sight.
INTRODUCING: ABOLITION WEEK 2023
FROM COP CITY TO PRISON FARMS, NEIGHBORHOODS TO IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTERS, THE CARCERAL SYSTEM SURROUNDS US. THE SYSTEMS BUILT TO CONFINE US ARE BOUNDLESS AND INSIDIOUS. This is the prison paradox: Undetectable (to many) until we are made to see it. In this introduction, the Scalawag editors provide the framework for this year's selection of pieces that speak to the theme, The Bars We Can't See.
Conditions of Confinement
Disrupting and shifting our assumptions about prisons means confronting harsh realities about the brutality, inhumanity, and abuse that take place within them.
by Zakaria Amara
"Two Lifers across from me are bickering about whether Inuit children have televisions in their igloos. Water is dripping on my forehead from the ceiling. It could be piss-water from the toilets upstairs, but I'm not concerned."
More on open-air Prisons:
Property & Exploitation
While new technologies are sometimes presented as a solution to the challenges of carceral logic, communication in and out of prisons is carefully controlled—and monetized for the state's gain. Meanwhile, what prisoners are able to write and create is heavily surveilled and sometimes censored.
"How do you prove a conspiracy? And how do I prove that this is all a conspiracy against me? To vanish me? To censor me? To kill me?"
More on censorship:
Art, Expression, & Music
The freedom to create is a form of liberation—one that can expose realities and injustices, inspiring alternatives and visions of freedom. The silencing of artists is a symptom of a system that fears their power and potential.
by DAVID ANNARELLI
"My six years of traumatic, wrongful incarceration are the basis for a Grammy-winning album—written in my head, existing as barely scribbled-out lyrics and notations, scattered throughout so many thousands of journal pages."
More On creativity & Subverting Control:
THE CARCERAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX LITERALLY POISONS OUR MATERIAL RESOURCES—OUR FOOD, WATER, AND THE AIR WE BREATHE—LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY. IN THE MIDST OF THIS, POLICING AND PRISONS ALSO DISRUPT TEMPORALITY, IN TERMS OF BOTH TIME AND SPACE.
by Richard Hunsinger
"Where is home in a place that no one wants to be in, where none of us can rarely permit ourselves an open way of relating to each other? "
More on toxic incarceration:
Health & Bodies
ABOLITION IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH. POLICING AND PRISONS DO THE OPPOSITE OF KEEPING US SAFE BY WORSENING AND CREATING NEW THREATS TO OUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WELL-BEING.
by KIRSTON DOWDELL
"Despite these horrific conditions, Governor Kay Ivey is hell-bent on building two supermax prisons in Alabama. That would be her legacy. If successful, the state will try to fill these facilities up just as quickly, which will only produce the same problems over and over again."
More on health in prison:
Jacob Goethe survived a car accident that caused him multiple injuries. But before he could get the appropriate care, he was arrested and sent to prison for drug crimes, where he received no medical care—or respect for his physical condition.
LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS, & GRIEF
THE THREAT OF CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE ALIENATES US FROM OUR LOVED ONES, OUR EMOTIONS, AND OUR HOMES.
"Tears, swollen eyes, shaking hands, unkempt hair, and wrinkled clothing are often considered violations of the Georgia Department of Corrections Inmate Handbook."
More On families affected by incarceration:
Shaban Hassouna was one of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for an Israeli soldier in 2011. But when he returned to find Gaza transformed into an open-air prison, he soon realized neither he—nor his family—would ever be truly free.
PHYSICAL, SEXUAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, AND ECONOMIC HARM CAN AFFECT ANYONE, BUT BARRIERS TO SURVIVAL AND RECOVERY ARE ROOTED IN HARMFUL NORMS AND ABUSES OF POWER. SO OFTEN, THE IDEAS WHICH UPHOLD THESE ABUSES ARE INTENDED TO CONTROL, SURVEIL, VIOLATE, AND PUNISH MARGINALIZED GENDERS.
by GABRIELLE A. PERRY
"The human rights crisis ensures that if you are a person capable of pregnancy, your body is a cage. If you find yourself in the clutches of the carceral system, you get to experience the simultaneous duality of being imprisoned twice."
More On Incarcerated womens' health:
MOVEMENT & MIGRATION
FORCED DISPLACEMENT AND STATELESSNESS CAN ARISE FROM CONFLICT, PERSECUTION, NATURAL DISASTERS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE—ALL OF WHICH CAN BE SPURRED BY AND TRACED BACK TO STATE VIOLENCE.
by Maram M. AbedAlBari
"Those thoughts of being abandoned by the whole world were all illusions, designed to make us feel more alone. All the people I met showed me, as a Palestinian, nothing but love, respect, solidarity, and fraternity."
More On the world beyond open-air prisons:
"I swear that I am ready to migrate once, twice, and twenty times. Ask me why? That's mainly because I am never able to ensure a good living for my family and myself."
Revisit past Abolition Week themes and stories:
Abolition Week 2022 introduces pop justice, featuring pop culture and television perspectives exclusively from currently and formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted writers. Browse the channels for essays, videos, podcasts, and letters from the inside.Keep reading.