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About this Guide

In support of a number of classes, events, and student journalism and activism at Northwestern University, this research guide provides resources for understanding, researching, teaching, advocating for, and practicing abolition in our contemporary moment. An international movement—from Chicago to Lagos to Palestine—this guide mainly focuses on abolition in the American context.

Included in this guide are links to abolitionist organizations, toolkits and study guides, journals and research databases, art and writing by incarcerated folks, community-based resources for alternatives to calling the police, and additional resources on campus and in the Chicago area.

  • Resources - organizations, toolkits, & study guides
  • Research - academic journals, books, databases, & special collections
  • Local - alternatives & resources at Northwestern & the Chicago area


What is Abolition?

Prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition is a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.

From where we are now, sometimes it is challenging to imagine what abolition is going to look like. Abolition isn’t just about getting rid of buildings full of cages. It’s also about undoing the society we live in because the PIC both feeds on and maintains oppression and inequalities through punishment, violence, and controls millions of people. Because the PIC is not an isolated system, abolition is a broad strategy. An abolitionist vision means that we must build models today that can represent how we want to live in the future. It means developing practical strategies for taking small steps that move us toward making our dreams real and that lead us all to believe that things really could be different. It means living this vision in our daily lives.

Abolition is both a practical organizing tool and a long-term goal.

—Critical Resistance, "Our Communities, Our Solutions: An Organizer’s Toolkit for Developing Campaigns to Abolish Policing" (2020)



"Abolition is an ongoing process of assessing and replacing any system that doesn’t serve all of us."
—Brea Baker, "Why I Became an Abolitionist"

"Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions."
—Ruth Wilson Gilmore


More Information

If you'd like to learn more, require support for a class or research project, or have any suggestions for this guide, please contact Josh Honn, English & Digital Humanities Librarian, at