The Abolitionist Law Center is a public interest law firm inspired by the struggle of political and politicized prisoners, and organized for the purpose of abolishing class and race based mass incarceration in the United States. To accomplish this goal, the Abolitionist Law Center engages in litigation on behalf of people whose human rights have been violated in prison, produces educational programs to inform the general public about the evils of mass incarceration, and works to develop a mass movement against the American penal system by building alliances and nurturing solidarity across social divisions.
The Abolitionist Law Center is based on years of practical experience fighting for prisoners’ rights, particularly through the work of the Human Rights Coalition. Founded in 2000 by prisoners at State Correctional Institution Greene, the Human Rights Coalition has been a leader in exposing torture and other human rights violations inside Pennsylvania’s prison system. Bret Grote, the Executive Director and co-founder of the Abolitionist Law Center, has worked as a volunteer with the Human Rights Coalition since 2007. The Abolitionist Law Center continues to work closely with the Human Rights Coalition in pursuing our shared vision of prison abolition and social justice.
Working with prisoners in defense of human rights has led us to the realization that the prison system – and, in particular, its reliance on solitary confinement – is part of a larger system that operates according to a logic of violence and intimidation. Solitary confinement is used to terrorize the prisoner population. The prison population and policies of race and class based mass imprisonment are used to terrorize poor communities in general, and communities of color in particular. And the socio-economic conditions in those communities are used to keep relatively privileged communities in line and focused on carrying out the agenda of a powerful few.
The Abolitionist Law Center seeks to challenge this status quo by building creative, principled, visionary, and lasting alliances with people and organizations inside and outside of prison who are determined to confront and defeat these interconnected systems of oppression, and replace them with healthy, sustainable, and liberating alternatives.