Solution Sessions

afropunk solutions sessions: paul butler on prison reform

September 23, 2018

“I represented the government in criminal court, and I used that power to put black men in prison, and black women, and poor people, and latino people. During the time I did that work, I learned some things that changed the way I felt about my responsibilities as a black man in the United States. After what I learned, I couldn’t be a prosecutor any more. Like a lot of prosecutors, that was pretty much all I did. I’m no longer about building that system up. I’m about tearing it down. That’s what we need to do with our criminal justice system. We need to tear that shit down.”

Paul Butler, whom you might remember from the episode “In a Box,” said this at AFROPUNK Solution Sessions in Atlanta last year. He used to be a prosecutor. Now he’s a law professor at Georgetown University and author of the book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, and he’s clear that prison abolition is the only effective way forward.

Locking disadvantaged people up in cages clearly isn’t solving any problems. So why does the U.S. still have a quarter of the world’s prison population, and what can we do to change that? In this interview, Yves talks to Paul Butler about growing up in Chicago, why the criminal justice system isn’t really about justice, and better alternatives to incarceration.

And if you haven’t already, listen to our episode on mass incarceration and prison abolition here.