On Feb. 19, 5C students, parents and professors gathered at Pomona College’s Rose Hills Theatre for a talk by prison abolitionist Andrea Ritchie.
The talk, hosted by 5C Prison Abolition Collective, was based on the book “No More Police: A Case for Abolition,” which Ritchie recently co-authored with fellow abolitionist Mariame Kaba. Ritchie weaved through topics such as the shortcomings of carceral reform, myths surrounding police and safety and solutions beyond the nation-state.
In 2022, Ritchie was named Scripps College’s Distinguished O’Brien Scholar. That spring, she led a conference with Kaba titled “Abolition is Feminism, Feminism is Abolition,” which was centered around uplifting Black feminist voices in the struggle for abolition.
Throughout the talk, Ritchie emphasized the importance of healing and community care, calling them the “moral center” of abolitionist efforts.
Nam Do PO ’23 praised Ritchie’s focus on these core ideas.
“Her emphasis on community was really valuable — always centering community and interpersonal relationships in talking about abolition work, [placing it] as the centerpiece of the mission of abolition and also liberatory politics in general,” Do said.
Ritchie dedicated a significant portion of the talk to debunking the efficacy of reformative solutions to policing. Drawing from her experience as a lawyer, Ritchie explained that ending qualified immunity does not end police violence, elaborating that police officers she successfully prosecuted have continued their misconduct despite being effectively relieved of qualified immunity.
Ritchie also discredited the notion that increasing police spending leads to a reduction in violence or an improvement in safety.
“[Police] say they’ll produce more safety or stop being so violent if you give [them] more money,” she said. “If it was really about funding the police, the U.S. would be the safest country in the world because we spend $130 billion on police every year, and we instead continue to face high rates of violence, including police violence.”
Ritchie promoted a revolutionary imagination, which pushes beyond the carceral state to find new definitions of safety.
Abby Smith PO ’23 applauded Ritchie’s incorporation of abolitionist history with novel ways of approaching the nation-state.
“I was appreciative of the way that she balanced thinking about abolition as coming out of the tradition of Black radical thought, while at the same time experimenting [with] different ways to counter the carceral state,” Smith said.
Tess Gibbs SC ’23, a member of the Prison Abolition Collective, found the presentation to be enlightening for both newcomers and those familiar with abolition.
“I feel like her presentation was such that if you are relatively new to understanding abolition, there was a lot you could get out of it.” Gibbs said. “At the same time, as somebody who has been in conversations about [abolition] for a while … I still feel like I got so much out of it in terms of the specificities about abolition, immigrant justice abolition and reproductive rights.”
Ritchie praised students for their calls to remove cops from the Claremont campuses. She also applauded them for resisting the Claremont Colleges’ attempts to exploit their employees and using their privilege as students at well-resourced institutions to promote transformative justice.
“I’ve definitely seen students standing in solidarity with hotel workers, with cafeteria workers, [and] with the people who these colleges are in relationships of exploitation with,” Ritchie said. “That’s what we do in the most resourced spaces. We stand with the people who are being exploited by them and we use the resources to practice the world we want.”
The Prison Abolition Collective meets on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Scripps student union.