Books

6 Books About Defunding The Police That Will Inspire You To Take Action

Calls to defund the police have been gaining steam for some time.

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Do we really need police forces to protect us? If you've been confused by recent calls to dismantle law enforcement as it exists in the United States today, don't worry. There are plenty of books that explain the movement to defund police, and reading any of them will help you get a better grasp on our current situation.

As Bustle previously reported, defunding the police is an alternative to police reform that proposes that a portion of the money spent on the police should be reallocated to other services, such as food assistance, mental health programs, as well as other social and economic initiatives.

In the wake of summer 2020’s racial reckoning, spurred by the continued deaths of Black people at the hands of the police, attitudes towards the police system have evolved. And after police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd — a vanishingly rare piece of justice — activists are reminding the public that real justice, and real change, will not be found in the courts. Even as many remain torn on what that change should look like, the call to defund the police continues to grow. The books on the list below thoughtfully explore this movement.

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1

From the author of Are Prisons Obsolete? comes this collection of interviews about the politics of incarceration and policing. Published just after stories of sexual exploitation and torture at Abu Ghraib prison came to light, Abolition Democracy covers the problem of international policing and human rights violations, and explores their intersections within the broader prison abolition movement.

2

The U.S. criminal justice system focuses on punitive measures for individuals without considering how crime, prosecution, incarceration, and execution affect communities at large — a flaw that the restorative justice movement aims to correct. Read more about how restorative justice works and what it can accomplish in this collection, edited by Vision Change Win Executive Director Ejeris Dixon and Tonguebreaker author Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

3

If you've ever thought that innocent people have nothing to fear from government surveillance, put Barry Friedman's Unwarranted at the top of your to-read list. Exploring everything from the Patriot Act to Edward Snowden and beyond, Friedman's book examines how government and corporate monitoring of individuals, without their permission, does real harm to American society.

4

But what would we do without police? We've always had them... right? Wrong. As Sidney L. Harring's Policing a Class Society points out, the contemporary police force is a relatively modern outgrowth of a post-Civil War system built to protect wealth by restricting the freedoms of the lower classes.

5

ICE is yet another new development in law enforcement, and it's that many are calling to defund. Published late in 2019, Natascha Elena Uhlmann's Abolish ICE examines how poorly regulated and critically damaging Immigration and Customs Enforcement truly is.

6

So what does the world look like without police? Alex S. Vitale's The End of Policing is here to tell you. From exploring the reasons why the current criminal justice system is so rotten, to exposing new avenues for achieving justice in the United States, this book is a landmark text in the movement to defund police.