Breaking Down the Prison Industrial Complex Video Project

In this period of astonishing energy and public discussion about the state of policing, detention, imprisonment, sentencing, and surveillance, CR is excited to release this new video series, Breaking Down the Prison Industrial Complex, as part of our Profiles in Abolition initiative. The videos explore the current state of the prison industrial complex (PIC) and how people are fighting back to resist and abolish it. As always, we feature abolition as a strategy to dismantle systems of harm and punishment in favor of systems that increase health, stability, and self-determination.

We look forward to releasing dozens of videos featuring conversations with Alice Kim, Andrea Ritchie, Angela Y. Davis, Charlene Caruthers, Claude Marks, Craig Gilmore, Dylan Rodriguez, Joey Mogul, Jose Lopez, Kamau Walton, Laura Whitehorn, Marbre Stahly-Butts, Mariame Kaba, Mary Hooks, Masai Ehehosi, Maya Schenwar, Ruthie Gilmore, Soffiyah Elijah, and more. The videos in this project were filmed, produced and directed by Rachel Herzing and Isaac Ontiveros.

Please share these videos broadly and help amplify abolition as a irresistible vision and practical organizing strategy. 

What is the Prison Industrial Complex?

In this first release of videos, we seek to sharpen a shared understanding understanding what the prison industrial complex (PIC) is and how it functions. An abolitionist approach to fighting the PIC means that we have an understanding of the forces at play and its impact.

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State Sanctioned Repression

Soffiyah Elijah, executive director, Alliance of Families for Justice

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The Prison Industrial Complex

Laura Whitehorn, formerly incarcerated political prisoner, organizer, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP

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Documented Not To Work

Ruthie Gilmore, Critical Resistance 1997 Organizing Collective

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The Impacts of the PIC


Laura Whitehorn, formerly incarcerated political prisoner, organizer, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP

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Snuffing Out Human Potential

Claude Marks, co-founder, Freedom Archives, former US held political prisoner

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The Domino Effect

Soffiyah Elijah, executive director, Alliance of Families for Justice

What is Policing?

In this second release of videos, we dig into one aspect of the prison industrial complex: policing. Through these videos, we hope to help advance a strong, clear understanding of what policing is, its depth and how this kind of analysis can help us reject its reach and erode its power. For a definition of Policing and our Abolition of Policing workshop, go here.

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It's Not Police Brutality

Dylan Rodriguez, Professor, University of California at Riverside and founding member of Critical Resistance

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Police Killings Are the Tip of the Iceberg

Craig Gilmore, California Prison Moratorium Project

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When the Prison Industrial Complex Masquerades as Social Welfare

Ruthie Gilmore, Critical Resistance 1997 Organizing Collective

Reforms and How We Choose to Fight

Abolition is both a vision and a practical strategy. Central to abolitionist work are the many fights for non-reformist reforms— those measures that reduce the power of an oppressive system while illuminating the system’s inability to solve the crises it creates.* As we build a movement, as we work hard on campaigns and projects, we encourage strong analysis about how to chip away at the system and not create things we have to tear down later.

We hope this videos help us think critically, expansively, and optimistically about what we must fight for. 

* Read this article "What Abolitionists Do" about the fight in this current moment and how we have utilized abolitionist reforms to advance gains.
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The Changing Nature of Fighting the Prison Industrial Complex

Mariame Kaba, founder, Project NIA, co-founder Survived & Punished

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Shifting Responses to the Prison Industrial Complex

Dylan Rodriguez, Professor, University of California at Riverside and founding member of Critical Resistance

Abolition, As a Practice

How do we organize for abolition? Why is abolition practical? These videos challenge us to think of abolition as a practice and consider how to put it to use.

* Read this article "What Abolitionists Do" about the fight in this current moment and how abolition has been put into practice to make material gains.
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Working Across Political Differences

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Movement for Black Lives Policy Table Leadership Team

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Making Common Cause

Ruthie Gilmore, Critical Resistance, 1997 Organizing Collective

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Learning Together How to Fight

Mariam Kaba, founder, Project NIA, co-founder Survived & Punished

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Self Defense

Mariame Kaba, founder, Project NIA, co-founder Survived & Punished

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Policy Platforms as Vehicles to Fight the Prison Industrial Complex

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Movement for Black Lives Policy Table Leadership Team

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Fear of Analysis

Craig Gilmore, California Prison Moratorium Project

Abolition as Vision

Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) abolition is a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.

Abolition isn’t just about getting rid of buildings full of cages. It’s also about undoing the society we live in because the PIC both feeds on and maintains oppression and inequalities through punishment, violence, and controls millions of people. Because the PIC is not an isolated system, abolition is a broad strategy. An abolitionist vision means that we must build models today that can represent how we want to live in the future. It means developing practical strategies for taking small steps that move us toward making our dreams real and that lead us all to believe that things really could be different. It means living this vision in our daily lives.

Abolition is both a practical organizing tool and a long-term goal.

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Envisioning a Different Kind of World

Claude Marks, co-founder, Freedom Archives, former US held political prisoner

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Abolition Is Our Obligation

Dylan Rodriguez, Professor, University of California at Riverside and founding member of Critical Resistance

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Abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Movement for Black Lives Policy Table Leadership Team

If you find these videos useful or inspiring, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Critical Resistance.