Since our founding, CR has taken on successful campaigns, projects, and other efforts towards the abolition of imprisonment, including stopping the construction of new jails and prisons, fighting increased sentencing and working to reduce imprisonment, supporting demands led by imprisoned people to improve conditions, and organizing for the permanent closure of prisons and jails.
These campaigns – in coalition with other organizations – temporarily halted the construction of the Delano II prison, effectively stopping California’s prison boom (2001); stopped a new jail planned for the Bronx (2009); uplifted hunger striking prisoners to win their demand to end indefinite solitary confinement (2011-2013); organized to reject construction of a replacement jail in San Francisco (2015) and closed the original jail sited for demolition for over 24 years in downtown San Francisco (2020); and halted a 10-year plan to build two new jails in LA County (2019).
Fighting Prison & Jail Expansion
Critical Resistance’s first campaign was to stop the world’s largest prison construction boom in history by stopping the state of California from building yet another prison in the early 2000’s. Working with dozens of organizers and families across the state, including Mothers Reclaiming Our Children (Mothers ROC) and CA Prison Moratorium Project among others, we helped to begin a movement against prison expansion and stopped California from continuing a 20-year boom in prison construction. We also successfully developed a three-pronged organizing strategy for our campaigns, combining legislative and legal strategies with grassroots mobilizing and consistent and disciplined media work to “shrink and starve” the prison industrial complex (PIC).
Since the Stop Delano II campaign, CR helped found a statewide alliance – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) – a leading formation in abolitionist and anti-prison organizing. CURB now has over 100 affiliated organizations spanning across the entire state of California working for over a decade to defund imprisonment and reallocate millions into life-affirming infrastructure for all of our communities.
As California and New York turned to expanding county and city jail systems to address overcrowding and dehumanizing conditions in state prisons, Critical Resistance chapters in Oakland, Los Angeles and New York City have taken on several campaigns to stop new jails from being built. Through these efforts, we have defeated plans for new jails in the Bronx with Community in Unity Coalition (2006-2008), then reignited calls for “No New Jails” in 2017-2020. In Los Angeles, we halted jail expansion with No More Jails LA and Justice LA coalition from 2004-2020 by stopping construction plans for a new jai for women, as well as expansion plans to shift a men’s replacement mental health jail plan (CCTF) to instead build a mental health treatment facility. In the Bay Area, we organized for seven years to stop San Francisco County from expanding jailing and criminalization through replacement jail projects and jails by other names such as “behavioral health” or “adjustment” centers (i.e. “mental health” jails).
Prison & Jail Closure
While fighting to stop new cages from being built, Critical Resistance has also organized to close already existing, and in some cases long-standing an notorious jails and prisons to close permanently and entirely. Some of these fights include closing Rikers, Rikers main jail complex, as well as Attica Prison with the Beyond Attica Coalition, and successfully closing the seismically unsafe County Jail #4 – also known as 850 Bryant – in downtown San Francisco.
In 2021, Critical Resistance Oakland and Los Angeles joined forces with CURB once again, this time to close 10 prisons throughout the state of California. Learn about our CA Prison Closure Plan and campaign here.
A PEOPLE’s VICTORY: We Shut Down a Notorious Jail in Downtown San Francisco!
Through our campaigns fighting imprisonment, Critical Resistance has generated numerous organizing tools for abolitionists to use in our work against jails, detention centers and prisons.