Abolitionist Visions

I invited Martin Hodgson to speak to The Racial State about his work to free wrongfully convicted prisoners. Martin is a Yuin man. He is a journalist and human rights defender who works as a senior advocate with Foreign Prisoners Support Service. He co-hosts the Curtain podcast with Amy McQuire. He has a strong interest in international policy and law, prisons, kidnapping and in opposing the death penalty.

Last week we read White Justice, Black Suffering by Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist and academic, Amy McQuire which details the case of Kevin ‘Curtain’ Henry who was wrongly convicted of a murder and imprisoned for over 25 years. The podcast and advocacy work around his case helps raise awareness of injustice against Indigenous incarcerated people as well as the wider issues concerning the racism of the criminal punishment system and its deep roots in colonial governance and the need to ‘manage’ and punish Indigenous paint them as uniquely criminal as a way of shoring up racial-colonial power in the Race State.

This week we tied these themes together with the growing campaign to abolish prisons and put an end to a system that does not do the work of reform it is supposed to do, but which incriminates whole groups of people causing violence and destruction in whole communities. Abolitionist activists have pointed out that to abolish the prison does not mean shutting it down from one day to the next but to work within communities to restore justice, building networks of trust and care in which people don’t feel they have to rely on the agents of state violence – police and prisons – to resolve conflict and grant justice to victims.

As the abolitionist and geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore says, abolition means changing everything from the ground up. 

Of relevance to this topic is a lecture given by Gunditjmara woman and abolitionist, Tabitha Lean, to this class in 2021 in which she details her journey to becoming an abolitionist activist and what abolition means and does not mean.

Alana Lentin