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110 Cal. L. Rev. 1 (2022)

handle is hein.journals/calr110 and id is 1 raw text is: Courts and the Abolition Movement
Matthew Clair* & Amanda Woog**
This Article theorizes and reimagines the place of courts in the
contemporary struggle for the abolition of racialized punitive systems
of legal control and exploitation. In the spring and summer of 2020,
the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black
and Indigenous people sparked continuous protests against racist
police violence and other forms of oppression. Meanwhile, abolitionist
organizers and scholars have long critiqued the prison-industrial
complex, or the constellation of corporations, media entities,
governmental actors, and racist and capitalist ideologies that have
driven mass incarceration. But between the police and the prison cell
sits the criminal court. Criminal courts are the legal pathway from an
arrest to a prison sentence, with myriad systems of control in between,
including ones branded as off-ramps. We cannot understand the
present crisis without understanding how the criminal courts not only
function to legitimate police and funnel people into carceral spaces
but also contribute their own unique forms of violence, social control,
and exploitation. These mechanisms reveal the machinations of mass
criminalization and the injustices operating between the police
encounter and the prison cell. Our central argument is that courts
with a focus here on criminal trial courts and the group of actors
within them function as an unjust social institution. We should
therefore work toward abolishing criminal courts and replacing them
with other institutions that do not inherently legitimate police, rely on
jails and prisons, or operate as tools of racial and economic
DOI: https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38MS3K27D.
Copyright © 2022 Matthew Clair & Amanda Woog.
*  Matthew Clair is Assistant Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) Law at Stanford
**  Amanda Woog is the Executive Director of the Texas Fair Defense Project.
We are grateful to Alec Karakatsanis; Janet Moore; Jocelyn Simonson; and graduate students in the
Autumn 2020 Ethnographies of Race, Crime, and Justice course at Stanford University for their helpful
comments on this Article. We thank Ash Bashir and Ross Miller for comments on a short piece on
judges and abolition published in Boston Review, which inspired parts of this work. Maria de Lourdes
Ortiz provided invaluable research assistance on an earlier draft. Finally, we are grateful to the people
at the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law


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