Skip to content


By: Lucy Chin, Volume 107 Staff Member

A small minority of the 1.3 million lawyers in the country engage in work that explicitly concerns community-based advocacy and movement lawyering.[1] And yet, our profession—like most in the past few years—has been unable to avoid confronting fundamental questions about our role in social justice movements.[2] In the context of the Summer 2020 uprisings, catalyzed by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, countrywide calls to rethink our perceptions of public safety and vocal demands to “defund the police” swept into the public consciousness with renewed urgency and relevance.[3] The legal field was implicated in such conversations, both explicitly and implicitly, making engagement with movement work impossible (and irresponsible) to ignore.

In addition to advancing important material demands nationwide, the protests of Summer 2020 illuminated the reality that even those of us who don’t work explicitly in policing and public safety are a part of the broader system of punishment and law enforcement. This is especially important to confront as law students, who are constantly making choices about the role we would like to play in our profession and in our community more broadly. As future policymakers, advocates, or judges, we cannot turn away from questions of how our industry contributes to or challenges fundamental assumptions about public safety, policing, and punishment. Marime Kaba and Andrea J. Ritchie’s newest book, No More Police: A Case for Abolition, provides one resource to confront these questions head on. Published in August 2022, the text provides an essential roadmap, not just for those embedded in movement lawyering or social justice advocacy, but for anyone curious about how individuals and institutions can truly address harm and facilitate justice while critically rethinking the punitive, carceral institutions that comprise our current default.


Written by two Black feminist abolitionists, No More Police situates itself comfortably within the canon of abolitionist thinking and organizing.[4] Each one of the 286 pages lands as an urgent, well-researched appeal from a friend whose exacting argumentation is paired with nuance and compassion. As the authors sketch out their case for a fundamentally different type of public safety, they invite the reader to confront the assumptions and shortcomings inherent in the institution of policing and, at the same time, radically imagine a new infrastructure to facilitate resource provision, accountability, and harm reduction.

Across the eight chapters of the book, the authors trace what they call the “central elements” of their argument: 1) police, rather that promoting safety in our communities, prevent it; 2) the violence often associated with police is inherent to the institution of policing such that it cannot be reformed; and, 3) safety beyond policing is not only possible, but already being created by communities nationwide.[5]

Their articulation of these elements is successful because they create space for ambiguity and tension without compromising on their central convictions. The authors acknowledge that for many, policing brings to mind a rather narrow set of actions tied, fundamentally, to the creation and protection of public safety. In the face of those specific actions, calls for total abolition may seem an overreaction. [6] But, they engage with this critique by exploring the implicit ways that policing has seeped into nearly every institution with which people engage.[7] Ranging from the role of police in public school settings to the criminalization of houselessness and mental health crises,[8] the authors clearly illustrate that policing is more interested in “justify[ing] the need for [the institution’s] endless growth” instead of “chang[ing] or eliminat[ing] conditions contributing to violence or criminalized acts” in the first place.[9]

The authors also remain committed to centering the voices of those most impacted by police violence, which transforms their arguments from conceptual exercises into discussions that consider and address real-world implications.[10] They compassionately explain the ways that policing, in itself, exacts harms and violence on the very communities that require protection.[11] And, they provide specific examples of how those same communities have created new systems of care and accountability outside of the traditional “crime and punishment” system.[12] Recasting the relationship between police and community, while illustrating innovative alternative challenges the traditional conception of “lawyer as expert,” which is taught and reiterated in many law school classrooms. But instead of inducing fear about how lawyers fit in, I felt liberated and affirmed in the way that lawyers can support such innovation. The abolitionist vision that Kaba, Ritchie, and their partners sketch out is one in which advocates defer to impacted communities—a radical act in the context of some attorney-client relationships.

Overall, No More Police is useful because of its expansiveness and specificity. It not only develops a thoughtful argument for why traditional public safety fails our communities, but also how we can collectively build alternatives that achieve the core values important to us—safety, accountability, harm reduction, and basic need provision. The book filters its argument through the lens of public safety and abolition, building explicitly on “the lessons of the past two years—and the past two decades—of abolitionist movement towards these goals.” But it also provides the reader with so much more, including guidance on how to build one’s own abolitionist muscles.[13]


In the sections that address what next steps follow from the arguments that they are making, Kaba and Ritchie lay out a challenge to their readers: “We don’t all need to be abolitionists. But we do all need to make a choice—will we continue to invest in attempts to ‘fix’ policing or seek changes that will reduce and eliminate it?”[14]

As law students trying to carve out a place in the profession, and maybe in the movement, what exactly does it mean to seek changes that reduce and eliminate the prison-industrial-complex as it currently exists? The authors respond to this question, not with a definitive answer, but rather with a toolkit that draws upon their own organizing efforts. Kaba and Ritchie provide a set of questions that have helped them move from theory to practice and to think about “whether the proposals being made would restore the legitimacy of policing or lead . . . toward more justice and freedom.”[15] Two themes seemed to arise from this list: First, a requirement that one recognizes abolition as both a conceptual framework and a multi-point strategy, and second that one centers authenticity and trust, both of which are central for meaningful experimentation.[16]

Thinking about these themes as I read, I considered the tension that can arise when engaging in the hard work of taking abolition from theory to practice. Even if a coalition shares an abolitionist end goal, difficulty can crop up along the way when and if the people comprising the coalition hold different perspectives that inspire different tactical choices. For example, a coalition made up of elected officials, service providers, and community organizers will confront fundamentally different roadblocks than one that includes impacted community members, abolitionist activists, and organizations committed to non-state-based interventions. A group with state-based stakeholders has necessarily fewer tools at their disposal and may have to narrow their strategy as a result. The authors recognize this too, acknowledging that “many unknowns and tensions around the specifics of the transition” exist, including the central question of how abolitionist organizers work in relation of the state.[17]

I continue to linger on this tension and sense that Kaba and Ritchie purposefully left this topic open-ended. The fact that there is no definitive answer is the point. Even more than providing a roadmap of specific steps and foolproof tactics, per se, the usefulness of No More Police, is the way that it inspires the reader to ask questions about what is possible and how they may confront similar situations in their own work and life. It also pairs that curiosity and sense of concern with a reminder that the process of experimentation is where the real work—building trust and relationships and abolitionist muscles—takes place and that, as mentioned above, many groups are already engaging in this work, perhaps even seeking out legal partners to complement certain strategies or initiatives.[18]

Until We are Free, though not mentioned in No More Police, is one local Minnesota organization that exemplifies many of Kaba and Ritchie’s central arguments. The organization “build[s] capital, resources, and support for [the] missing community of world changers that are stuck behind bars or fresh out of a Minnesota prison.”[19] Led by impacted individuals and actively working with individuals who are currently incarcerated, the organization focuses on helping folks meet their basic human needs through their Internal Investment and Frontline Support programs, as well as Welcome Home Kits.[20] Beyond this, though, they also shrink the scope of the criminal legal system through their Freedom Campaign program, which offers post-conviction legal navigation support.[21] Advocates help individuals prepare for all of the requirements and infrastructures that exist to keep people within the scope of the criminal-legal system after being incarcerated. This, in turn, serves to disrupt and, ultimately, shrink the scope of the prison industrial complex.

In the end, this book and the call to action that surfaces for law students across the country—whether interested in generalist practice, government law, or movement lawyering—has to do with committing to a vision that we can create a better system and not accepting the status quo as it currently operates. “The ultimate goal is to reorganize our society to meet material needs and to build and resource community-based safety strategies and infrastructure.”[22] We all have an urgent part to play.


[1] A Consumer Guide for the Social Justice-Minded Law Student, Soc’y Am. L. Tchrs (2015), [] (“Not all lawyers have the interest or the opportunity to devote their professional careers to advancing social justice. Approximately 75% of all lawyers work in private law firms; 8% work in private industry; 8% work in government jobs; 3% are judges; 1% work in education; 1% work in private nonprofits; and 1% work as public defenders or legal aid lawyers.”).

[2] See, e.g., Police Misconduct: Qualified Immunity Among Measures Debated by Reform Frontliners, Am. Bar Ass’n (August 1, 2020),–qualified-immunity-among-measures-debated-by- [] (describing a panel discussion entitled “Justice and Policing – A Path Forward,” which was a part of the ABA’s Annual Meeting in 2020).

[3] Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui & Jugal K. Patel, Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History, N.Y. Times (July 3, 2020), [] (describing the mobilization and movement work of Summer 2022, which has been referred to as the “largest movement in the country’s history”).

[4] The past year, numerous works have been published addressing these questions. For a few examples, see Angelia Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners & Beth E. Ritchie, Abolition. Feminism. Now. (2022); Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation (2022); Mariama Kaba, We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice (Tamara K. Nopper ed., 2021); Robyn Maynard & Leanna Betasamosake Simpson, Rehearsals for Living (2022); Derecka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and The Pursuit of Freedom (2022).

[5] Mariame Kaba & Andrea J. Ritchie, No More Police: A Case for Abolition 17–19 (2022).

[6] Id. at 180–87.

[7] See id. at 140–76 (Chapter 4, No More Soft Police) and 202–39 (Chapter 6, Tricks and Tensions).

[8] Id.

[9] Id. at 58.

[10] See id. at 41–70 (Chapter 1, Cops Don’t Stop Violence) and 71–106 (Chapter 2, We Are Survivors).

[11] Id. at 85–86 (“The U.S. was built on, and requires, violence against Black, Indigenous, disabled, migrant, queer, and trans people . . . . For these reasons, the carceral U.S. state . . . cannot adequately recognize, prevent, or redress violence against these populations.).”

[12] Id. at 97–106.

[13] Id. at 38.

[14] Id. at 131.

[15] Id.

[16] See id. at 177–201 (Chapter 5 – How Do We Get There? Toward a Police-Free Future).

[17] Id. at 202.

[18] See e.g., Id. at 240–69 (Chapter 7, Experiment and Build) and 291–98 (Resources). The organizations Interrupting Criminalization and Project NIA also jointly curate a website called “OneMillionExperiments,” which provides examples of “community-based safety projects and a podcast exploring how we define and create wellness and reduce harm in a world without police and prison.” About One Million Experiments, One Million Experiments, [] (2022).

[19] Our Work, Until We Are All Free, [].

[20] Our Programs, Until We Are All Free, [].

[21] Id.

[22] Kaba & Ritchie, supra note 5, at 14.