Interview

Considering penal abolitionism

The abolitionist movement is not well-known in France. Three texts, recently translated into French, have been assembled into one book on the subject.

The recent conviction of Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the murder of George Floyd, was momentous for Black Lives Matter. The movement shone a spotlight on the topic of abolishing the police and, consequently, that of penal abolitionism. In both the United States and France, more and more abolitionist demands are being heard.

What is penal abolitionism? The concept has been present on both sides of the Atlantic since the early 1970s and continues to evolve. What perspective can be provided by texts written during the 1970s?

Gwenola Ricordeau is an activist and penal abolitionist as well as an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Chico. She has assembled three texts from pioneers of the abolitionist movement, to be published for the first time in French in her new book, Crimes et peines, penser l’abolitionnisme (Crimes and Punishments: Considering penal abolitionism). Prison Insider asked her three questions.

I wanted to provide French-speakers access to certain important texts on abolitionism.

In this sense, it is not so obvious to resort to punishment when harm has been done.

In France and throughout the world, we have not done away with repressive policies regarding narcotics.

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