Activists from across the world gather in London to plan for a world without prisons and police

This weekend (15-18th June 2018), London will host Abolitionist Futures: Building Social Justice Not Criminal Justice, an international gathering of activists and community organisers to coordinate and plan for a future where prisons and police are no longer used. Abolitionist Futures is the eighteenth International Conference on Penal Abolition, which was established in 1982 and has taken place all over the world.

With more than 100 presentations and workshops with contributions from 18 countries, participants will explore practical solutions and strategies to replace detention, policing and punishment through better systems of accountability and transformative justice.

Oonagh Ryder, one of the conference organisers, said: “Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, it has done nothing to protect society from violence and harm. 

“While politicians scapegoat those with the least power in society, they divert the public’s attention away from the urgent task of delivering economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice for all. 

Kelsey Mohamed, one of the conference organisers, said: “Abolition is not just about dismantling a violent and unjust criminal justice system. It is also about building alternative structures and instilling cultures of non-violence and mutual accountability. Together, we can build a world in which we no longer lock people up in cages, but instead strive for freedom for all.”

A future without prisons and police is not only imaginable, it is possible and necessary. Abolitionist Futures is an opportunity for international voices fighting for change to come together and discuss why and how.”

This year’s conference is hosted by the Open University’s Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative, Birkbeck University of London Department of Criminology and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The conference has been organised in partnership with UK based campaign groups and grassroots networks working for social justice:

Action for Trans Health
Bent Bars Project
Black Lives Matter UK
Empty Cages Collective
IWW London
London Campaign Against Police & State Violence
North London Sisters Uncut
Race & Class collective
Reclaim Holloway
Reclaim Justice Network
Smash IPP!
Women in Prison

Media enquiries email

About the conference programme

The weekend will kick off on Friday 15th June, with a panel event at 6pm, featuring notable abolitionists Beth Richie and Ruth Wilson Gilmore from the USA and Deborah Coles from the UK’s INQUEST. Tickets for Friday 15th June event (now waiting list only).

The event’s workshops and presentations will be given by contributors from all over the world. These include: Critical Resistance, Transformative Justice Kollektiv Berlin, Bent Bars Project, End Deportations and many more.

On Saturday 16th to Monday 18th June, attendees will be able to participate in sessions to learn about a wide range of social justice issues relating to prison abolition. These sessions include: “Indigenous Resistance,” “Alternatives to Police and Fostering Community Safety,” “No One is Disposable: Queer/Trans Liberation and the Politics of Solidarity,” as well as social justice-focused art, poetry and performances.

View the programme, click here. Other follow up events.


The criminal justice system is violent and harmful: The UK’s prison population has risen by 90% in the last two decades, bringing the number to over 90,000. At the time of writing we are 156 days into 2018 and already we have seen at least 129 deaths in prison, immigration detention centres and at the hands of the police. As the effects of neoliberalism and austerity deepen each day, increasing numbers of people find themselves made disposable by our economic system and structural inequality, targeted by the agencies of the criminal justice system simply for being homeless, experiencing poor mental health or being born in a different country.

The criminal justice system does not reduce social harm: Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, we have continued to seen violence and harm in our society on a massive scale. Violence against women and girls is endemic, racism and the far right are on the rise in Britain and rates of murder and violent assaults are beginning to increase again. As politicians continue to scapegoat those with the least power in society, the conditions of structural violence that so often precede interpersonal violence remain in place.

We can build a world based on social justice, not criminal justice: All over the world, communities are coming together to build real solutions to societal problems. These solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system, in preventing harm through building a better society. By bringing together groups and organisations working for social justice, Abolitionist Futures will demonstrate and strengthen the links between prison abolition and wider struggles for housing, health, education, and environment; and for economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice.

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