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Abolitionist Futures: Full Reading List

Recently, there are been a huge uptake in interest in abolitionist ideas. More and more people are questioning whether prisons are the best response to harms in society and whether the police actually function to bring about a safer society. But how might we need to alter our thinking, practices and social institutions to build a world without prisons and policing?

Prison abolition has long and diverse tradition of thinking and organising around these questions. Abolition has been influenced by the radical black tradition, indigenous organising, marxist and anarchist ideas, queer and feminist analysis. And at their most successful, abolitionist principles embed themselves within all political struggles: disability activism, housing and welfare campaigns, feminist organising, environmental justice, anti-war and anti-border struggles to name a few.

We have put together this reading list to introduce you to abolitionist ideas via short, accessible and introductory texts, podcasts and videos. We hope they spark informed discussions of abolitionist ideas to take with you to work places, campaign meetings, and conversations with friends and family.

The suggested reading list is not exhaustive and inevitably has many gaps and limitations. This is both because it is not possible to cover everything within five weeks, and also because we were trying to include a variety of content. If you have suggestions for other readings, please let us know as we are working on a phase two list.

We recognise that a fair number of the readings are from the US. This is in part due to the more established abolitionist organising there. However it is important to bear in mind that there are significant differences in context, and we can’t simply import US analysis or strategies to the UK. The readings have been chosen to offer some starting points for discussion, including how lessons learned in other contexts might be useful in thinking about the UK situation.

Note: If you want to set up your own group, check out our guidance on setting up a reading group and our handy facilitators guide.



Session 1: Introduction to Abolition

Session 2: What is wrong with reform?

Session 3: Feminist, Queer and Anti-racist Abolition

Session 4: Transformative Justice

Session 5: Mutual Aid and Covid-19

Session 6: Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police

Further Resources and Reading!


Session 1: Introduction to abolition

Core Reading:

  1. Davis, Angela. (2003) ‘Introduction: Prison Reform or Prison Abolition?; Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press, P. 9-21 [12 pages]
  2. Critical Resistance. (no date) What is Abolition? [1 page]
  3. Prison Research Education Action Project (1976) ‘Nine Perspectives for Prison Abolitionists’, & ‘Diminishing / Dismantling the Prison System,’ from Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists. [2 pages + 5 pages].

Second Round Reading:

Further reading:

Ben-Moshe, Liat. (2014) Alternatives to (Disability) Incarceration. In: Ben-Moshe, L., Chapman, C. and Carey, A. C. (eds.) Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.255-271

Wilson Gilmore, Ruth (2005) From Military Industrial Complex to Prison Industrial Complex: Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore in conversation with Trevor Paglen. Recording Carceral Landscapes Project. Available from:

Larson, Mike (2011) ‘Considering Abolition,’ Rittenhouse Just Blog.

Ryan, M. and Sim, J. (2007) Campaigning for and campaigning against prisons: excavating and reaffirming the case for prison abolition. In: Jewkes, Y. (ed.) Handbook on Prisons. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp.696-718.

Sudbury, Julia. (2000) Transatlantic Visions: Resisting the Globalization of Mass Incarceration. Social Justice 27 (3), pp.133-149.

Ware, Syrus and Joan Ruzsa and Giselle Dias, Giselle. (2014) It Can’t Be Fixed Because It’s Not Broken: Racism and Disability in the Prison Industrial Complex. In: Ben-Moshe, L., Chapman, C. and Carey, A. C. (eds.) Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.163-184.

Witlock, Kay (2016) Prison Reform Misdirection: 5 Caveats About Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration Beacon Broadside.


Session 2: What’s wrong with reform? What are non-reformist reforms?

Core Reading:

  1. Berger, Dan and Mariame Kaba and David Stein (2017). ‘What Abolitionists do,Jacobinmag.com  [5 pages]
  2. Murakawa, Naomi & #BlackLivesMatter (2015) Liberals, Guns and the Roots of the U.S. Prison Explosion  (2015). [Video] The Laura Flanders Show. *Note: For the purpose of the abolition versus reform discussion, the first 14 minutes are key, but if you have time, the first 21 minutes are recommended.
  3. Ben-Moshe, Liat. (2013) The Tension Between Abolition and Reform. In: Nagel, M. E. and Nocella, A. J. (eds.) The End of Prisons: Reflections from the Decarceration Movement. Amsterdam: Value Inquriy Book Series, pp.83-92.
  4. Kaba, Mariame (2014) ‘Police “Reforms” You Should Always OpposeTruth-Out. [1 page].
  5. Critical Resistance (2020) Reformist Reforms vs Abolitionist Steps in Policing [Abolitionist Reforms Chart] [1 page]

Second Round Reading:

Further reading:

Dukmasova, Maya (2016) ‘Abolish the police? Organizers say its less crazy than it seems’.  Chicago Reader.

Wilson Gilmore, Ruth (2012) ‘Don’t reform prisons, abolish them’.  Video of remarks at CT Coalition to Stop Indefinite Detention.

Wilson Gilmore, Ruth (2015) ‘The Economy of Incarceration.’ [Video]  Interview on the Laura Flanders Show.

Wilson Gilmore, Ruth (2007) Golden Gulag: Prisons, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California.  University of California Press.

Law, Victoria (2011) Protection without Police: North American Community Responses to Violence in the 1970s and TodayUpping the Anti.

Maynard, Robyn (2017) Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to Present. Fernwood Press.

Ru & Adam / London Campaign Against Police and State Violence (LCAPSV) (2020) From Minneapolis to London: Who Polices the Police?

Vitale, Alex S (2017) The Myth of Liberal Policing The New Inquiry.

Vitale, Alex S (2018)  The End of Policing. Verso Books. [You can download the e-book for free or read a short excerpt published in Red Pepper)

Walia, Harsha (2013) Undoing Border Imperialism AK Press.


Session 3: Understanding Interpersonal Harm

Core Reading: 

  1. Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (2008) Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex [3 pages]
  2. Sudbury, Julia (now Julia Chinyere Opara) (2006) ‘Rethinking Antiviolence Strategies: Lessons from the Black Women’s Movement in Britain’ in Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology  p. 13-24. Available from [12 pages]
  3. Richie, Beth. (2014) ‘How Anti-Violence Activism Taught Me to Become a Prison Abolitionist’ FeministWire.org. [2 pages]
  4. Bassichis, Morgan and Alexander Lee and Dean Spade. (2011) ‘Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got’. In: Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Oakland: AK Press, p.15-19 &  33-37. [10 pages]

Second Round Reading:

Further reading:

Brionde, Joshua (2017) Navigating justice for sexual abuse survivors, when you’re a prison abolitionist and a survivor. Afropunk.com. 

Conrad, Ryan (editor) (2012) Against Equality: Prisons will not Protect You. With Introduction by Dean Spade. AK Press.

Daniel-McCarter, Owen and Erica Meiners and R. Noll (2017) Queer Disavowal: “Controversial” Crimes and Building Abolition. In: Halperin, D. M. and Hoppe, T. (eds.) The War on Sex. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Decolonization Means Prison Abolition.’  Video of Law & Disorder Conference in Portland, 2012.

Incite! Women of Color against Violence (ed) (2006/2016) Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology. Duke University Press.

Law, Victoria  (2011) Resisting Gender Violence without Cops or Prisons [Video]

Law, Victoria (2014) Against Carceral Feminism JacobinMag.com

Lamble, S (2011) Ten Reasons to Dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex through Queer/Trans Analysis and Action. Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex.

Levine, Judith and Erica Meiners (2020) The Feminist and the Sex Offender: Confronting Sexual Harm, Ending State Violence. Verso Books.

Morris, Ruth (2000) Stories of Transformative Justice. Toronto, Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Richie, Beth (2012) Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation.  New York and London: New York University Press.

Russell, Emma. and Bree Carlton (2013) Pathways, race and gender responsive reform: Through an abolitionist lens. Theoretical Criminology 17 (4), pp.474-492.

Shaylor, Cassandra (2009) Neither Kind Nor Gentle: The Perils of ‘Gender Responsive Justice’. In: Scraton, P. and McQulloch, J. (eds.) The Violence of Incarceration. London & New York: Routledge, p. 145-163.  [18 pages]

Smith, Andrea (2009) Beyond Restorative Justice: Radical Organising Against Violence. In: Ptacek, J. (ed.) Restorative Justice and Violence Against Women. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp.255-278.

Smith, Molly and Juno Mac (2018) Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights. (2018) Verso.

Stanley, Eric and Nat Smith (eds.) (2011) Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex.  Oakland, California: AK Press. Available from:

Stanley, Eric and Dean Spade and Queer (In)Justice (2012) ‘Queering Prison Abolition, Now?American Quarterly. pp. 115-127.


Session 4: Transformative Justice & Abolition

Core Reading:

  1. Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (2014) ‘Transformative Justice and Community Accountability’ [1 page]
  2. Aorta Collective (2013) ‘Punitive, Restorative & Transformative Justice: The basics’ [2 pages]
  3. Chrysalis Collective (2011) Beautiful, Difficult, Powerful: Ending Sexual Assault Through Transformative Justice. In: Chen, C.-I., Dulani, J. and Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. L. (eds.) The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press, pp.188-205. [18 pages]
  4. GenerationFive (2017) ‘Community Response and Accountability’ & ‘Transformation of Community and Social Conditions that Create and Perpetuate Violence’ in Ending Child Sexual Abuse: A Transformative Justice Handbook, p. 56-61. [6 pages]

Second Round Reading:

Further reading:

TransformHarm.org  [Resources Hub on ending violence from transformative justice perspectives]

Chen, C.-I., Dulani and Laksmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. (2008) The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities (‘zine).

Chen, C.-I., Dulani, J. and Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. L. (eds.) (2011) The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities.  [Book] Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.

Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA)  (2008) ‘Taking Risks:  Implementing grassroots community accountability strategies’ The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities [‘zine], p. 64-79

Community Accountability Resource List

Creative Interventions (2012) Creative Interventions Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence [Pre-release version 06.2012].  [Online]. Available at:

Generation Five (2007) Toward Transformative Justice. 

GenerationFive (2017) Ending Child Sexual Abuse: A Transformative Justice Handbook.

Kim, Mimi (2011) Moving Beyond Critique: Creative Interventions and Reconstructions of Community Accountability. Social Justice 37 (4), pp.14-35.

The Movement for Black Lives (2016) A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice

Kelly, E. L. (2011) Philly Stands Up: Inside the Politics and Poetics of Transformative Justice and Community Accountability in Sexual Assault Situations. Social Justice 37 (4), pp.44-57.

Philly Stands Up & Benjamin Holtzman and Kevin Van Meter (2012) Furthering Transformative Justice, Building Healthy Communities: An Interview with Philly Stands Up

The Movement for Black Lives (2016) A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice


Session 5: Abolitionist Mutual Aid and responses to COVID-19

Core Reading:

  1. Adam Elliott Cooper & The Monitoring Group (2020)  ‘Covid-19 Lockdown – Policing the Police’  [Video 10min]
  2. Gal-Dem (2020) ‘The state will not save us, only we can save us’: a collective response to Covid-19. Gal-Dem.com [4 pages]
  3. INQUEST/Women in Prison (2020)  Covid-19 Letter  Inquest.org.uk  [2 pages]
  4. Herskind, Micah (2020) ‘Three Reasons Advocates Must Move Beyond Demanding Release for “Nonviolent Offenders”’ Medium.com  [9 pages]
  5. Sparrow, Josie (2020) ‘Mutual Aid IncorporatedNew Socialist. [12 pages]

Second Round Reading:

Further reading:

MPD150 (2020) 10 actions ideas for building a police-free-future

Pauly, Madison & Alex Vitale (2020) What a world without cops would look like. MotherJones.com

Rose, Aaron (2016) What to do instead of calling the police.  Alternatives to Police Blog.

Siddiqui, Sophia (2020) We Starved But We Shared. Institute of Race Relations, Race & Class Blog.

Scott, David and Joe Sim (2020) The Coronavirus Pandemic and Prison Policy. Open University.

SWARM (2020) How to support victims of domestic violence without calling the police. Swarmcollective.org

Tolentino, Jia (2020) What Mutual Aid Can Do During a Pandemic. The New Yorker.


Session 6: Black Lives Matter & Defund the Police

Core Reading:

  1. Kaba, Mariame (2020) – Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police. New York Times 12 June 2020 (2 pages)
  2. Samudzi, Zoé (2020) Stealing Away in America. Jewish Currents 10 June 2020. (8 pages)
  3. History of the Establishment of the London Metropolitan Police. Drawn Out Thinking. (Illustration/Comic12 pages)
  4. Paul Gilroy in conversation with Ruth Wilson Gilmore. 7th June 2020. (Podcast 42 minutes or transcript 7 pages)
  5. Ritchie, Andrea & Mariame Kaba and Wood Ervin (2020) Defund the Police Toolkit. InterruptingCriminalisation.com (24 pages)

Further reading:

Maynard, Robyn (2017) Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to Present. Fernwood Press.

Ritchie, Andrea J (2017) Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. Beacon Press.

Richie, B. (2012) Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation.  New York and London: New York University Press.

Critical Resistance (2020) Abolition of Policing Workshop CriticalResistance.org

Gilroy, Paul (1987) Their Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The cultural Politics of Race and Nation. Chapter 3: ‘Lesser Breeds without the Law’


Further Reading/Other Abolitionist Reading Lists:

  1. TransformHarm.org
  2. Black Perspectives: Prison Abolition Syllabus 
  3. Abolishing Prisons and Police: Five Readings
  4. Prison Industrial Complex Essential Reading
  5. No One is Disposable Prison Abolition Reading List
  6. Resource Guide on Prisons, Policing and Punishment
  7. Transformative Justice Reading List
  8. Toronto Transformative Justice list
  9. Thinking Through the End of Policing
  10. Alternatives to Policing
  11. What to do instead of calling the police – Resource List
  12. Critical Resistance – Addressing Harm, Accountability & Healing
  13. Critical Resistance –  Abolish Policing Resources
  14. Bay Area Transformative Justice Readings & Resources
  15. Queer Challenges to the politics of inclusion – Resources on Prison
  16. Reading Towards Abolition: A reading list on policing, rebellion and the criminalisation of blackness
  17. New to Abolition Study Group Guide
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