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Police, Prisons & Abolition: A Guide to Conversing Critically with Kids

In this three-part series, Families for Justice hopes to provide relevant resources, thought pieces, and conversation starters curated for those parenting, caring for, and supporting children as we critically examine the institution and function of police and policing, systems of incarceration, and abolitionist alternatives that further models of safety, community care, and repair of harm deeply rooted in racial and transformative justice.

While a wealth of resources has emerged in the past year to explore these topics with intellectual vigor for adults, these resources are rarely directed towards parents, families, or those in caring and supportive roles who would like to critically engage with young people.

At Families for Justice, we hope to provide an antidote to that by sharing out resources that can support you and the young ones in your life in furthering learning, dialogue, critical reflection and engagement around these important issues as we collectively – with love and vigor - work towards greater justice.

The institution of police, rooted in anti-blackness and inextricably linked to our nation’s long history of colonization, slavery and maintaining white power structures is still an institution that is left largely unquestioned. How do we challenge the normalization of police as an institution – and the troubling history of racialized control and violence it is built upon – in our parenting and in the larger community?

The dominant message about prisons in our society, wherein “bad people" go to jail, a place they “deserve to be," not only normalizes jailing people, but its also leaves the underlying injustices of our policing, legal, and prison system unquestioned in a way that legitimizes a long history of racial and social control. Let us challenge these narratives and learn along with our children, in honest, open, curious and compassionate ways.

Part one and part two of this guide offered resources for talking and engaging with young people as we looked closely at our policing and imprisonment systems as sites of racialized harm. This section tackles talking about (and taking) the next step: abolishing them. At its core, abolition is about both dismantling harmful systems of policing and imprisonment AND building thriving, healthy, racially just communities with models of safety, and community care that transform, rather than perpetuate, harm.

Families for Justice is a multi-generational network of people in Dane County working to dismantle white supremacy through multi-generational community organizing and direct action. Read more about us on our main webpage.

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