The Prison Moratorium Project (PMP) was created in 1995 for the express purpose of working for the elimination of all prisons in the United States and the release of all inmates. This non-profit group believes that incarceration is never an appropriate means of dealing with crime. Embracing the axiom that American society’s inherent inequities are at the root of all criminal behavior, PMP laments what it calls the “criminalization of youth” allegedly caused by those inequities.
According to PMP, the American “prison-industrial complex” is rife with injustices such as the following: “overrepresentation of Blacks and Latinos within the system; allocation of federal money to a corrupt system rather than to programs that benefit the people; devastation of entire communities; children robbed of caregivers; perpetuation of inferiority complex; psychological damage of those imprisoned; focus on retainment rather than reform and rehabilitation; [and] generations of possible educators, thinkers, artists, and advocates enchained [sic].”
PMP’s worldview includes the following tenets: “imprisonment is not the solution and … prisons cannot work”; “justice and safety are not served by imprisonment but by investing in education, housing, health care, jobs, mental health, and programs that respond to social and economic needs”; and “where there is social and political will to make human livelihood a priority, there is no need for prisons.” To the question of how society should deal with violent criminals, PMP replies not with answers but with its own set of questions: “What are the roots of the violence? How can the community responsibly hold people accountable? What are the best paths towards rehabilitation?”
PMP received national attention through its creation of Raptivism Records and the Hip Hop CD “No More Prisons.” Kevin Pranis, a well-known activist and the former (in the 1990s) Youth Section Chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was a PMP Board member from 1996-2002. PMP has long been closely allied with DSA.
Kate Kyung Ji Rhee, a graduate of the University of Chicago, has been the Director of PMP since 1999. In August 2003, Rhee presented a film explaining the purpose and activities of PMP to the Third International Black Panther Film Festival in New York — a festival chaired by actor and activist Danny Glover. PMP seminars have occasionally been taught by the longtime communist radical Angela Davis, currently a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The California branch of the Prison Moratorium Project has joined forces with the Border Action Network (BAN) to oppose the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, both of which mandate stiff penalties for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the United States.
Affiliated with the U.S. chapter of the Socialist International, PMP has received financial support from the JEHT Foundation, the New York Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Public Welfare Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.