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The criminal justice system currently functions to exclude black people from full political participation. Myriad institutions, laws, and definitions within the criminal justice system subordinate and criminalize black people, thereby excluding them from electoral politics, and depriving them of material resources, social networks, family relationships, and legitimacy necessary for full political citizenship. Making criminal law democratic requires more than reform efforts to improve currently existing procedures and systems. Rather, it requires an abolitionist approach that will dismantle the criminal law’s anti-democratic aspects entirely and reconstitute the criminal justice system without them.


Criminal justice policy, racial discrimination, abolitionism, democracy, social justice, political subordination, disenfrachisement

Publication Title

Northwestern Law Review

Publication Citation

111 Nw. L. Rev. 1597 (2017)