Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom

Astra House. Oct. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781662600517. $28. POL SCI
Both a memoir and a political call to action, this work by activist and lawyer Purnell illustrates, through a myriad of examples, why policing and incarceration in the United States have not been effective at keeping people safe and advocates for a transformative, rather than reformative, approach to criminal justice. The vision in this book transcends any one particular social justice lens and imagines entirely redeveloped social and political structures and values, connecting climate justice, health justice, economic justice, decolonization, antiracism, opposing ableism, and an end to policing, all with the overarching goal of improving people’s lives, especially in communities of color. Through excellent historical analysis and the lens of her own lived experience, Purnell challenges the efficacy of incremental change to the systems we already have and encourages the abolition of harmful systems to make way for healthier and stronger communities. With a blend of personal anecdotes and historical facts, this book will ask readers to confront their ideas about what makes for a fair and just world.
VERDICT Purnell’s writing is personal, moving, and offers a globally relevant perspective. It dramatically expands the scope of how Americans can think about policing and justice and will leave a lasting impact.
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