Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has tweeted in favor of a “real conversation” on “prison abolition.” As controversy erupted in some corners, she followed that up with a tweet saying that humans don’t belong in cages.
It all started when AOC wrote on Twitter, “Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery. To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Ocasio-Cortez Wrote That Humans Don’t Belong in Cages & Conceded the Term ‘Prison Abolition’ Was ‘Breaking Some People’s Brains’
AOC continued to explain what she meant.
“Yesterday morning I spoke with a woman who was thrown in Rikers as a teenager. Put in solitary confinement for MONTHS, aka torture. Force-fed pills,” AOC wrote on Twitter on October 7, 2019. “The conditions were so bad, she too had drank out of toilets. A cage is a cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them.”
She continued, “I know the term ‘prison abolition’ is breaking some people’s brains. The right is already freaking out. Yet the US incarcerates more than anywhere in the world. We have more than enough room to close many of our prisons and explore just alternatives to incarceration.”
She argued that jails and prisons are full of people who shouldn’t be there, writing, “First of all, many people in jailed or in prison don’t belong there at all. Whether it’s punitive sentencing for marijuana possession or jailing people for their poverty & letting the rich free through systems like cash bail, we wrongly incarcerate far, far too many people.”
That wasn’t all. Ocasio-Cortez continued: “Secondly, our prison & jail system is so large bc we use them as de facto mental hospitals, homeless shelters, & detox centers instead of *actually* investing in… mental health, housing, edu, & rehab. If we invested meaningfully, what do you think would happen to crime? Lastly, people tend to say “what do you do with all the violent people?” as a defense for incarcerating millions. Our lawmaking process means we come to solutions together, &either way we should work to an end where our prison system is dramatically smaller than it is today.”
AOC Was Responding to a Tweet From Celebrity Chelsea Handler About a Man Who Was Sentenced to Jail for Missing Jury Duty by Oversleeping
Ocasio-Cortez’s original tweet on “prison abolition” came along with a retweet from the page of celebrity Chelsea Handler, who had written, “10 days. He’s spending the same amount of time in jail that parents who committed college bribery are spending. Why? Because he’s black.” In turn, Handler was sharing a video with the caption, “21-Year-Old Arrested For Oversleeping Through First Day Of Jury Duty.”
According to The Hill, Deandre Somerville, 21, of Florida, was indeed handed a 10 day jail sentence for sleeping and missing jury duty.
Prison Abolition Is an Actual Movement
What is prison abolition? It’s a movement. The Marshall Project has a roundup of commentary on prison abolition. An analysis on the site says, “For years they’ve pushed a radical vision of a world without prisons. Now, the mainstream is taking note.”
The article continues: “People who follow criminal justice policy for a living say the fastest growing subset of the reform movement consists of abolitionists who say a system that is inherently racist and based on retribution should be pulled up by the roots. Not just prisons and jails, but most of the institutions of law enforcement and criminal justice.”
An article by The Nation explains that the “prison-abolition movement is a loose collection of people and groups who, in many different ways, are calling for deep, structural reforms to how we handle and even think about crime in our country.” The site identifies “Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore” as “the most famous contemporary abolitionists.” Davis wrote a book called “Are Prisons Obsolete?” The blurb on the publisher’s website reads, “With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison.” Gilmore was recently featured in a New York Times Magazine article headlines, “Is Prison Necessary?”
According to The Nation, “Abolitionists believe that incarceration, in any form, harms society more than it helps.”
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