NLG Adopts Resolution Supporting Prison Abolition

“Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings.” –Angela Y. Davis


NEW YORK—Following the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Law for the People Convention in October, NLG membership adopted a resolution calling for the dismantling and abolition of all prisons and of all aspects of systems and institutions that support, condone, create, fill, or protect prisons. The U.S. currently holds the world’s largest prison population at a cost of $80 billion per year, and spends six times more on prisons than education. “Calling for the abolition of this profit-motivated system that is designed to maintain racial and economic inequality while relying on individualized punishment as a primary response to social problems falls directly within our mission of protecting human rights over property interests,” said Sharlyn Grace, NLG Co-Executive Vice President.

Furthermore, the resolution identifies the damaging injustices perpetuated by the current prison system, including racism, classism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, labor abuse, marginalization of non-Christians, and criminalization of political dissent. Prisons legitimize capitalism and feed corporate wealth directly at the expense of poor communities, and especially urban communities of color.

Far from curbing violence, the U.S. prison system depends on it. The system not only robs individuals of their liberty and safety but also strips communities, particularly those of color, of members and resources. For example, several cities have identified “million-dollar blocks” for which the state spends $1 million or more incarcerating residents of a single block of a neighborhood which itself has been deprived of resources. “Pushing communities into precarity is not accidental; it is an intentional part of the prison system which seeks to control residents physically, socially, and economically. The movement for liberation envisions not only dismantling prisons themselves but reallocating those resources back into the communities to which they belong.” stated Oren Nimni, Co-Chair of The United People of Color Caucus of the NLG (TUPOCC).

The Guild is currently engaged in unique and innovative efforts nationwide to alleviate some of the harm inflicted by mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, including the Prison Parole Preparation Project of the NLG-NYC Chapter’s Mass Incarceration Committee, the Prisoner Advocacy Network of the NLG-SF Bay Area Chapter’s Police and Prisons Committee, the founding of the national Political Prisoner Support Committee, annual Student Week against the Death Penalty, and new Guild Notes column, “Beyond Bars: Voices from NLG Jailhouse Lawyers”. NLG members are also providing legal support for various initiatives opposing policing, criminalization, and incarceration nationwide, including the Black Lives Matter movement and local initiatives opposing solitary confinement, the drug war, and new prison construction.

The full text of this and previous Guild resolutions are available at

The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

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