CR History Profile

Critical Resistance (CR) is a grassroots organization building a movement to end the reliance on the interlocking systems of imprisonment, surveillance, and policing—what we call the prison industrial complex (PIC)—as a response to political, social, and economic problems.  We run local and regional campaigns and projects to dismantle current structures of imprisonment and policing, change how communities and decision-makers understand punishment and safety, and build new institutions and practices to transform and prevent interpersonal, communal, and social harm.

As an organization, CR emerged from a conference held in Berkeley, California, in 1998. Over 3500 people —including formerly imprisoned people, advocates, prisoners’ families, organizers, and academics— attended the conference, which sparked a movement to abolish the prison industrial complex. We have hosted 4 national conferences since 1998, bringing together over 10,000 people.

In all our work we aim to make abolition common sense, shift who is recognized as a movement expert, and amplify abolitionist reforms to help shrink the system and bring us practically closer to our goal.

Our chapters have halted new prison and jail construction, collaborated with imprisoned organizers, developed the leadership of people leaving jails and prisons, stopped racially motivated policing practices, and fostered projects to develop alternative responses to state and interpersonal violence. Our No New Jails campaigns are featured in the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform under “End the War on Black People” as model campaigns.

History Summary with Key Campaign and Project Highlights:

To seed the current PIC abolitionist movement, we hosted 4 national and regional conferences that brought together over ten thousand people. Over the course of 1997-2010, CR organized with hundreds of movement partners for:

  • Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex, Berkeley, CA 1998
  • Critical Resistance East: Northeast Regional Conference, New York City 2001
  • Critical Resistance South: Southern Regional Conference, New Orleans 2003
  • Critical Resistance 10: 10th Anniversary Conference and Strategy Session to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, Oakland 2008.

Through advancing a critical understanding of prison industrial complex and abolition, CR has consistently inspired individuals, organizations and communities to take creative and practical steps to build this liberated future. We have achieved many victories against imprisonment, including:

  • We halted California’s 20-year prison building boom through leading the Stop Delano II campaign (1998-2008);
  • We starved the California prison system of millions of dollars intended for new cages and cofounded the now-70-organization-strong Californians United for  Responsible Budget (CURB) coalition;
  • We stopped the construction of a new jail in the Bronx with the Community in Unity coalition in New York City (2006-2008) and in 2017 reignited the  calls for “No New Jails” in NYC. We are currently campaigning to halt the proposed NYC jail expansion and shifting common sense that Rikers can be closed without building new jails;
  • We have defied jail expansion in Los Angeles, CA since 2004 and inspired dozens of organizations and thousands of people to take up the call of “No more jails” in LA (2004- 2017 with LA No More Jails coalition; from 2017- present with JusticeLA coalition). In 2019, CR Los Angeles and the JusticeLA coalition stopped women’s jail construction plans in Los Angeles County and succeeded in winning the war of ideas against jail expansion as the men’s replacement mental health jail plan (CCTF) was shifted to instead build a mental health treatment facility. The struggle continues in Los Angeles against the construction of this jail-by-another-name, as we fight against imprisonment in LA County Jail system and criminalization, and for decentralized community care resources;
  • We halted jail expansion in San Francisco, CA for the past 7 years with the No New SF Jail Coalition and are advancing the call to close the seismically unsafe jail at 850 Bryant.

We’ve specifically built power and campaigns with imprisoned people:

  • With imprisoned people’s loved ones, we built the Amnesty for Survivors of Hurricane Katrina campaign in New Orleans to identify, expose and stop the use of imprisonment, policing and surveillance as the state’s response to natural and unnatural disasters.
  • We founded The Abolitionist newspaper, a bilingual political education and organizing publication that reaches over 7,500 imprisoned people across the U.S. for free, three times a year;
  • We advanced the call to abolish solitary confinement in California and run media, outreach and legislative strategies for the 30,000-prisoner strong California Prisoner Hunger Strikers with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition and the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay (2011-2015), leading to the international recognition of solitary confinement as torture and a massive reduction of its use in California;
  • With CR NYC and a statewide network of organizations and loved ones impacted by imprisonment, we defeated draconian package and visiting restriction proposals in New York State that would have limited contact between imprisoned people and their loved ones (2017, 2018);

We’ve eroded the power of policing and won concrete victories:

  • We eliminated racist gang injunctions in Oakland, CA with the Stop the Injunctions coalition, modeling the first complete grassroots victory against this policy in the country (2010-2015);
  • With the Stop Urban Shield coalition, we defeated Urban Shield, the largest SWAT team training and weapons expo in the world (2013-2019);
  • We founded the Oakland Power Projects to increase people’s wellbeing and decrease reliance on law enforcement. As part of this, we supported the development of an Anti-Policing Healthworkers network and the Know Your Options healthcare series that empower people to deescalate everyday emergency situations and reduce engagement with cops when seeking healthcare.
  • We cut proposed police expansions in Portland, OR in half with through our Care Not Cops campaign, stopping the addition of over 35 new police positions and saving Portlanders $6 million (2018);
  • From 2016-2019 we collaborated with public health workers to pass the “Law Enforcement is a Public Health Issue” through the 25,000-person strong national American Public Health Association.

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