Young Abolitionists (YA) is a youth-led grassroots collective from Boston that formed in 2012 from a group of friends that came together to build resistance against the prison industrial complex. The first members of YA were three young men of color and though each grew up in a different neighborhood in Boston, they all experienced similar, if not the same, forms of institutional and interpersonal racism from local law enforcement. Whether it was being stopped and frisked weekly on their way to school, being falsely accused of crimes or unwarranted disciplinary actions at school, the constant criminalization of their identity and culture took a heavy toll on them. Because of these particular experiences, they decided that there was an immense need to put a stop to the issue of racist policing, which became the initial focus of YA.
YA works in disenfranchised communities to spread awareness and take action against the destructive effects of the growth of the prison industrial complex and believes that in better understanding this unjust system, we can more consciously avoid the traps set by it, and through increased awareness in our neighborhoods, we can eventually put an end to its driving force, capitalism.
Over the years the group has been able to build through numerous community meetings where we held participatory discussions on topics not limited to the prison industrial complex, like sexism, patriarchy and local grassroots campaigns. We have held movie screenings, giving community members clarity and in depth analysis on the roots and origins of the prison industrial complex, connecting with other groups doing the same work both locally, like Black and Pink, and nationally like the DC Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) chapter. YA has connected people to the struggle through various workshop topics like; the school to prison pipeline, community building and alternatives to incarceration, knowing your rights and the history of police in America. The group has traveled Boston with these workshops in Boston Public Schools, Boston colleges and universities, and various youth programs. The first couple of years of YA had the Boston activism scene buzzing with enthusiasm with collaboration requests coming in weekly. YA has participated in many campaigns and coalitions such as Jobs Not Jails, Summer With Assata, and the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability.
YA’s vision and mission has developed with the group. Because of our experiences working with such a vast network of people, all focusing on oppression of some form, we started to connect the dots. We still feel as though mass incarceration is an important issue we have to tackle but we have broadened our focus to include issues like poverty, gentrification, and healing. YA wishes to build a new world free of oppression and exploitation, one community at a time.
The point of unity for this collective begins at the abolition of the institution of prisons, but it does not end there. We believe that prisons are one of the most brutal forms of violence in this country, and that targeting the prison system is a strategic way to build a movement for collective liberation. It has been proven that prisons in no way help to rehabilitate prisoners or deter crime upon release. Prisons have dangerously grown to prop up capitalism by developing a population of free labor that have been virtually stripped of their human rights as global citizens. Prisoners are routinely subjected to torture, manipulation and violence with absolutely no accountability placed on victims’ perpetrators. Prisons have also worked to disproportionately criminalize Black and Brown populations and for YAMI, the eradication of the prison system is tied to the eradication of all systems that exploit, silence, and marginalize people within the US and beyond. We believe that it is thus crucial that we bring an end to all prisons by finding a new way to deal with harm via restorative justice, an increased focus on mental health/rehabilitation and the end of the war on drugs.
We are anti-authoritarian. We believe in the self determination of all people and their ability to know what is best for them. We believe that by making our democracy more participatory we can create new forms of institutions that empower people to have a direct say in what affects them and their communities.
We believe that Patriarchy and the insidious nature of eurocentrism stand in the way of freedom. We realize that we must internalize black feminism and a queer praxis to support our freedom. In the same manner, we seek to decolonize the eurocentrism in our everyday lives.
We believe that all people deserve forms of education that seek to liberate and teach them about their true history. All people deserve decent housing, jobs and support from society to seek fulfillment in their lives.
In essence, prison abolition is a vision based on the belief that we have the ability to live communally, that we are capable of individual and collective transformation, that we do not need punishment or violence to address harm, but a restoration of justice and healing. Prison abolition cannot happen without the abolition of all other interconnected forms of oppression. Thus, envisioning a world without prisons means envisioning complete liberation!