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33 J.L. & Soc. Pol'y 1 (2020)

handle is hein.journals/jlsp33 and id is 1 raw text is: 
Lee: Thinking Broadly: This Volume as a Guide for Abolitionists


Thinking Broadly: This Volume as a Guide for Abolitionists


ADAM LEE*

On   15 March   2019,  the Journal  of Law   and  Social Policy  (JLSP)  held  Detained:  From
Supporting  Prisoners to Abolishing  Prisons, a day-long  symposium on prisoner support and
prison  abolition. Framed   as a  space  for lawyers,  law  students, activists, organizers, and
community   members   alike to come together and learn about prisons from one  another, the event
ran as a series of panels on a wide variety of topics from nine o'clock in the morning until past
ten o'clock at night.
       A  year and a half earlier, a government official gave a guest lecture at Osgoode Hall Law
School  about prison conditions. After discussing  at length the horrors of solitary confinement
and  other harms  created by  prisons, a question came   from  a student: if prisons are sites of
rampant  human   rights abuses, why  privilege the existence of  prisons at all by attempting to
reform them  as opposed  to abolishing them? The  official responded that society needs prisons in
order to function. Prisons must be reformed  and made  more  humane  for the people inside them,
the official concluded, but because society needs prisons, the line is drawn at ending them.
       With   this response  still in our minds, we-as student editors-were unsure how a
conversation about  abolition would be received. At the same time, the official's response proved
to us that we needed  to force a conversation about abolition at Osgoode  and in legal education
more  broadly. We  wanted  to challenge the default paradigm espoused by  many  that the problem
with prisons is that they execute their function poorly. To  the contrary, the argument running
through the symposium   (and which  runs through the articles presented in this volume) is that the
carceral state functions exactly as it is intended. The violence in this system cannot be reformed
away;  it persists because it is designed to be so.
       The  symposium had been planned primarily by a committee within the JLSP editorial
team  over the course of several months. In a pivotal moment  during our very first meeting as an
organizing team  the September  before, a question was raised: How big do we  want this event to

* Adam Lee is an LLM candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and a former student editor with the Journal of Law
and Social Policy in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Adam would like to thank Krisna Saravanamuttu, Adrian Smith, Janet
Mosher, Amar Bhatia, and Caitlin Leach for their feedback and support on this introduction.
       The symposium  and this volume would not have been possible without the contributions and support of
many  people and organizations alike. From planning and organizing to setting up placards and distributing
programs, the symposium could not have happened without every single member of the 2018-19 JLSP editorial
team, each of whom played a crucial role. The editorial team would like to thank our Co-Editors-in-Chief at the time
of the symposium, Professors Janet Mosher and Amar Bhatia. Their enthusiastic support was much needed at a time
when abolition felt like a controversial topic in law school. None of this would have been possible without their
guidance, leadership, and genuine commitments to justice and to their students. Nor would it have been possible
without generous funding from the Criminal Law Society at Osgoode, the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies,
Osgoode Hall Law School, the Osgoode Hall Law Union, the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights,
Crime, and Security, and the York Centre for Public Law & Policy. We would also like to thank everybody who
spoke at the symposium, and particularly those with lived experience of carcerality, for their generosity in sharing
their irreplaceable expertise with all of us present. We will carry it forward.

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