Over the past 30 years, the prison population has almost doubled, with police having more powers (e.g. Section 60s, surveillance tech and injunctions) and more weapons (e.g. guns, tasers and spithoods) than ever before.
Black people are disproportionately on the receiving end of stops, searches, arrests and excessive force. Racialised minorities make up a quarter of incarcerated people and Black Britons make up 12% of adult prisoners and more than 20% of children in custody, despite making up 3% of the population. Therefore, Britain locks up Black people at the same rate as the US locks up Black Americans. Like the US, expanding police and prison power has brought no improvements to public safety or harm reduction.
The police and prison system are beyond reform – we need an alternative system to keep our communities safe. Imprisoned people are more likely to have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, school exclusion, special educational needs, mental health problems, problematic drug use, poverty, debt and precarious immigration status. As Angela Davis said, ‘prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear people’.
We need social responses to social problems, not an ever-expanding, racist police and prison system. We need funding for transformative justice and the services that actually keep us safe like refuges, community programmes and youth centres and call for a bold transformation of health and social care, education, housing, employment and immigration reform. Learn more about defunding the police from Abolitionist Futures.