When I was 18 years old, locked in a solitary confinement cell, I read a book about Hannibal crossing the Alps on elephants. I remember going to sleep after finishing the book and promising myself that I would climb those mountains one day despite being sentenced to die in prison.
This past October, that dream became a reality.
I stood on a mountain in Switzerland the week that war erupted in Gaza, and shouted “Free Palestine!” and “Free them all!” from the top of the world.
I was in Geneva as part of a delegation organized by ALC and other movement partners, consisting of formerly incarcerated people and others who’ve been directly impacted by the criminal punishment system. We were there to urge the United Nations Human Rights Commission to call on the U.S. to end death by incarceration sentences (life without parole) and other human rights abuses.
Soon after I and others testified, the UNHRC issued a formal recommendation that the U.S. should pursue alternatives to detention, the cash bail system, and mandatory minimum sentencing; end the use of solitary confinement; and institute a nationwide moratorium on both executions and death by incarceration (life without parole) sentences.
We made history: because of the voices of those directly impacted by the system, the United States
was admonished to halt its use of these practices that violate the human rights of incarcerated people.
We — those most directly affected by imprisonment, policing, and other forms of state violence — make our dreams come true.
That was the case when I was behind the walls, and it still is now that I’m out and heading the Abolitionist Law Center, where we work in coalition with other movement partners that are also led by those who’ve experienced this country’s criminal punishment system firsthand.
Formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones are the leaders here, and we know what needs to be done to take down these racist, classist institutions. But our allies play a crucial role in this movement too, by providing resources we need to fight on.
We rely on that support to keep going.
So I’m personally inviting you to fuel this movement by making a donation to the Abolitionist Law Center now.
ALC marked our 10th anniversary this year, and with your support, we’ll keep charging towards liberation in 2024 and beyond. We’ll continue to agitate for the release of long-term political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and others. We’ll keep up our innovative and winning litigating and organizing to end solitary confinement in Pennsylvania (the state where this barbaric practice was invented), and death by incarceration and other long-term sentencing.
We’ll persist in holding police departments, jails, courts, and prisons accountable for the harms they perpetrate, especially against those who are most vulnerable like people with mental health conditions and other disabilities.
We’ll demand and achieve substantive changes to the deplorable conditions and practices at county jails and state prisons that warehouse and abuse tens of thousands of people every year, and we’ll push relentlessly to decarcerate these torture chambers.
We’ll insist on and ensure access to democracy for people in marginalized and under resourced communities. And we’ll keep advocating for human rights, safety, wellbeing, and dignity for Black and Brown communities, and in solidarity with interconnected movements fighting colonization and exploitation across the U.S. and around the world.
Back when the state told me as a teenager that I was gonna die in prison, I never accepted that. I resisted, rebelled, and eventually made it out because of the movement we on the inside, with support from our loved ones on the outside, built from the confines of solitary and death by incarceration sentences.
Now, as ALC launches into its second decade, I’m asking you to help our freedom dreams continue to come true.
Please show your commitment to this abolitionist family and to the liberation we’re fighting for, by making a generous, tax-deductible donation today.
In solidarity and struggle,
Robert Saleem Holbrook