Transformative Justice and New Abolition in the United States

Michelle Brown1

1 Department of Sociology, University of Tennessee, 901 McClung Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996, mbrow121@utk.edu

From Australia to Europe, South Africa to Palestine, there is a marked revival of abolitionist discourse in theory and practice, each with locally and historically contextualized features of justice (Davis 2016). In the United States, the call for abolition of the major institutions of criminal justice: prisons, police, cash bail, the monetization of fines, border control, etc., has entered a remarkable moment of resurgence.  These demands have entered popular mainstream discussion by way of political movements centered upon racial and social justice against the volatile rise of the far right and the ascendance of neoliberal positions of leftist reform.  In this talk, I take the US as a specific case and work through how various strands of historical thought, theory, and contemporary practice culminate in a call for transformative justice.  As the dominant form of alternative justice envisioned by abolition workers on the ground, one that seeks to address harm without any reliance on the state (generationFive 2017), transformative justice demands critical attention to the ways in which movement organizers have envisioned and pursued abolitionist and transformative interventions and to the principles to which they hold fast.

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