Books for changing the world
Abolition and Social Work
Possibilities, Paradoxes, and the Practice of Community Care

A critical anthology exploring the debates, conundrums, and promising practices around abolition and social work in academia and within impacted communities.

Within social work—a profession that has been intimately tied to and often complicit in the building and sustaining of the carceral state—abolitionist thinking, movement-building, and radical praxis are shifting the field. Critical scholarship and organizing have helped to name and examine the realities of carceral social work as a form of “soft policing.” For radical social work, abolition moves beyond critique to the politics of possibility.

Featuring a foreword by Mariame Kaba, Abolition and Social Work offers an orientation to abolitionist theory for social workers and explores the tensions and paradoxes in realizing abolitionist practice in social work—a necessary intervention in contemporary discourse regarding carceral social work, and a compass for recentering this work through the lens of abolition, transformative justice, and collective care.

Contributors include Autumn Asher BlackDeer, Ramona Beltran, Danica Brown, Charlene A. Caruthers, Angela Y. Davis, Alan Dettlaff, Tanisha “Wakumi” Douglas, Annie Zean Dunbar, Angela Fernandez, Kassandra Frederique, María Gandarilla Ocampo, Claudette L. Grinnell-Davis, Sam Harrell, Justin S. Harty, Shira Hassan, Leah A. Jacobs, Nev Jones, Joyce McMillan, Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work, Dorothy Roberts, Sophia Sarantakos, Katie Schultz, and Stéphanie Wahab.

  • Abolition and Social Work provides a frank and detailed analysis of how social work is shaped by and executes the work of the carceral state, and how social workers committed to abolition are struggling to dismantle criminalization within institutions designed to contain and control people. This book should be required reading for all social work students and everyone else who works closely with social workers—lawyers, nurses, teachers, mental health providers of all kinds. This book breaks the humanitarian illusion of social work and raises the real questions about if and how we can infiltrate its systems to redistribute, disrupt, and support liberation.”—Dean Spade, author of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)

    “The contributors to this visionary book have offered a timely gift to social workers and other comrades working for freedom. It is both a call to remember the radical origins of social work practice and an invitation to redirect our current and future work—unapologetically—toward justice. We need this guidance more than ever; Abolition and Social Work serves as a compelling and timely resource for scholars, activists, and practitioners alike.” —Beth E. Richie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation

    “If you are working to limit or end the violence of policing and prisons, this book is required reading. Gathering the fruits of decades of experience from a wide range of perspectives, editors and contributors illuminate the traps, pitfalls, and dead ends of simply substituting counselors and caseworkers for cops and cages—most important, that caseworkers often act as or collude with cops, policing people instead of supporting them, producing similar and expanded forms of harm. This critical collection invites everyone in a ‘caring profession’ into a critical assessment of their collusion with the carceral state, points to the promise of an abolitionist approach to care work, and challenges all of us to reach beyond policing in new forms to radically reimagine how we care for each other. A necessary and critical intervention, right on time.” —Andrea J. Ritchie, cofounder of Interrupting Criminalization and coauthor of No More Police: A Case for Abolition

    “Timely and powerful, this collection is required, transformative reading not just for social workers but for all of us who engage in the daily radical labor to build a more free and flourishing world. Full of key tools to engage in abolitionist practices, Abolition and Social Work is a book to study and struggle with now.” —Erica R. Meiners, coauthor of Abolition. Feminism. Now.

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