What is abolitionist re-entry?

FOCUS Initiatives is an abolitionist effort to develop a re-entry or post-release program for people returning to Indiana from prison, that takes into account the underlying or “root” causes of mass incarceration. We understand that people are incarcerated not for what they do, but for who they are. Political, economic, and social forces all contribute to determining how people are treated by the criminal legal system. Although individuals’ personal actions do often play some role in their interactions with the criminal legal system, the framework of individual guilt and responsibility fails to understand that the prison-industrial complex targets poor people for incarceration as a form of exploitation. We want to do more than simply help select individuals navigate the enormous and unfair obstacles the system places in their path upon release from prison. FOCUS stands for Forever on Course United in Solidarity, and in that spirit, we hope to go beyond helping individuals, to changing the conditions that the prison-industrial complex produces in poor communities.

FOCUS Initiatives understands that under racial capitalism, the likelihood of arrest and how one is treated by the police and courts is determined by socioeconomic status and political power, and that the prison system is designed to keep people incarcerated, not to rehabilitate them or prepare them for a successful future. Policing and incarceration target economically marginalized communities of color, especially Black, Indigenous, and Latin communities, and poor communities in general, for surveillance, arrests, and brutality. The treatment of poor people and people of color by the police and criminal legal system are mechanisms of class stratification and racialization designed to maintain the white supremacist, capitalist power structure. Similarly, the over-incarceration of queer and transgender people and the increasing rate of incarceration of women are mechanisms of the reproduction of a heteronormativity and patriarchy.

At its root, mass incarceration is a strategy of repression designed to limit or altogether prevent the self-determination of the people and communities it is deployed against, and the prison-industrial complex exists to profit from that repression. Therefore, our goal, as an abolitionist re-entry project, is to support formerly incarcerated people and communities targeted by the criminal legal system in their efforts to determine their own futures according to their own needs and desires. We hope to help build resilient communities, and reinforce already existing communities, so that they are able to support people returning from prison, and through solidarity, overcome the oppressive forces of racial capitalism that drive mass incarceration. We believe that only collective struggle and community solidarity can bring about substantial change to the prospects people face upon release from prison and the conditions of deprivation produced by the prison-industrial complex.