From 2018-2020, Critical Resistance led a national Abolitionist Training School (ATS) to strengthen the national movement to dismantle the prison industrial complex (PIC). The purpose of this national Abolitionist Training School has been fourfold: to strengthen our membership’s skills and capacities to run successful campaigns, to develop shared strategy and tactics with partner organizations, to integrate shared analysis on the PIC into abolitionist campaigns across the US, and to build a stronger national alliance among PIC abolitionist organizations. To align and build upon each of these four purposes, the school has four phases, outlined below.
Phase 1: Intensive study and core beliefs (March 2019)
Critical Resistance convened a national membership gathering for our chapters and members across the country to engage in intensive political study of our core beliefs, political foundations, and historical and contemporary examples of movements and campaigns. Together we worked to develop stronger political alignment towards impacting our campaigns, projects, and partnerships on the ground.
Phase 2: Organizing trainings in each chapter city (Summer 2019)
CR then hosted local chapter-based organizing trainings with a focus on campaign strategy grounded in historical and contemporary fights against imprisonment and policing. The trainings were facilitated by 1 CR staff and 1 member from a sister chapter in order to build up membership facilitation skills and sharing across campaigns and chapters. In Portland and Oakland, the trainings included both CR members as well as key allies in the chapter’s campaigns.
Phase 3: Movement building exchange (2019-2020)
The third phase of ATS was centered on strengthening our partnerships and learning together with other leaders in abolition by working on a series of joint projects together. The purpose of this phase is to support other movement leaders and groups with PIC abolition skill development, to develop shared strategy and tactics for integration into campaigns across the US, and to think through questions of strategy in regards to simultaneous rightwing attack and liberal/moderate reforms. By creating a national abolitionist network of different organizations – the Abolition NOW! Network -, this phase helped to fortify our struggle nationally by strengthening working relationships and political trust with aligned organizations across the country in order to have more active partnership and solidarity as key issues arise.
Phase 4: Strengthening Movement Together through the Abolition NOW! Network (Summer and Fall 2020 into 2021)
For the final phase of ATS, CR continued to bring together leaders from the Abolition NOW! Network convened in Phase 3 to further develop political unity within the PIC abolitionist movement, focusing on abolitionist efforts to reduce, dismantle, or reform the PIC during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, as well as proactive solutions and investments we can collectively make towards abolitionist goals.
In the Fall of 2020, the Abolition NOW! Network hosted a series of political education events virtually for communities and organizations across the US to attend.