Dear Reader,

We are being called upon to radically reimagine our societies: to collectively envision a future that is safe for us all; a future that does not tolerate the violent surveillance, policing and imprisonment of our communities. In recent months, it has been incredibly inspiring to witness dialogue around abolition and the defunding of police become more mainstream in the United States. Simultaneously, the aggressive expansion of the webs of criminalization, surveillance, racism, and white supremacy continue to be a terrifying reality for many of our communities. The global COVID-19 pandemic – which disproportionately impacts LGBTQI, incarcerated, low-income, migrant, Native, Black, and Latinx communities – also disproportionately demands their labor at the frontlines, despite these same populations being among the most vulnerable to housing, food, health care and employment insecurity.

Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures is rooted in the groundwork of visionary abolitionists who fight to end policing, criminalization, and carceral logics and technologies in all their forms. It holds the central idea of abolition as a vision and a political strategy. Hope and a more just vision for the future lies within the powerful resistance and abolitionist work of communities of color here in the United States. Movement organizers respond to increasing levels of surveillance and state violence with incredible ingenuity and resilience. The growth of community-controlled technologies, of mutual aid and care support networks remind us: surveillance, prisons and police don't keep us safe. We keep us safe.

This report emerged out of the need to better understand the ways in which Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QT2SBIPOC) communities are disproportionately impacted by surveillance and criminalization at all levels—from the state-endorsed to the corporate-led—and to resource these communities to push back. Our research amplifies the movement interventions and responses that organizers are employing to create safety for the people they serve. Committed to their vision of collective liberation, they are pushing the boundaries to decolonize technology and place it in service of movement building. In doing so, organizers are shifting the narrative around safety and violence/justice.

Yet, despite the fact that their work is groundbreaking and their resistance is powerful beyond measure, there is an immense gap in resourcing for this type of liberatory organizing. Philanthropy has an essential role to play in funding, fueling, and sustaining those working for liberation at the intersections of technology and criminalization. It also holds a responsibility to break down the silos in funding of movement building, technology, criminal justice, racial justice, climate change, and more. With this report, we challenge you to engage more deeply with the work of brilliant organizers and movement technologists who are forging visions for demilitarized, community-driven technologies to sustain and support the future of movements for liberation. We invite you to prioritize support for those who are leading responses rooted in abolition, and imagining and building systems of care and interdependence, grounded in transformative justice and healing justice—and we offer concrete ways to do so.

Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures is based on rich interviews and engagement with movement technologists, organizers, researchers, and policy advocates about what liberation from surveillance and criminalization can actually look like. We thank them for contributing their invaluable time and insights. By no means is this report a complete picture of the myriad issues surrounding technology and criminalization. Astraea and Research Action Design (RAD) created this report as a resource for funders to understand what is at stake and what opportunities exist to support critical organizing at the intersections of decriminalization and technology. Throughout this report, you will read about surveillance, carceral technologies, criminalization, and policing. In some instances, we speak about these practices in tandem, and, in others, we hone in on one to provide deeper insight, but please bear in mind that these processes and practices—and their consequences—are inextricably linked.

We honor and are grateful for the legacy of abolitionist activists, organizers, and policy writers, whose work has challenged us to step away from the carceral state and a politics of punishment, and instead imagine transformative responses to injustice. We are delighted to share this report with all of you as a roadmap to understand both the impacts of surveillance and criminalization, along with our collective efforts of better supporting those who have a clear vision of the possibilities for transformation and justice.

In solidarity,

Brenda Salas Neves,
Astraea Senior Program Officer

Mihika Srivastava,
Astraea Communications Program Officer


This section includes: 1) Key findings about how movements in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are pushing back against criminalizing technologies and building sustainable, community-centered alternatives; 2) Recommendations for funders looking to support communities proactively transforming and re-imagining new futures outside of criminalization.

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Communities of Color are increasingly hyper-policed with state technologies and entangled within the criminal legal system, perpetuating the racist history of policing and prisons in the U.S. This section explores examples of the harmful ways state and private entities use technology and surveillance mechanisms to harm communities of color.

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Embodying power and resilience, organizers and communities employ new and old strategies to identify and resist criminalization while dreaming up new worlds free from state violence and control. This section shares just a few examples of how organizers are creatively circumventing systems of criminalization and building new technologies rooted in community-led safety.

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We conclude this report with a renewed call for long-term responsive funding initiatives that support organizations addressing the root causes of systemic inequity and challenging settler colonial narratives of criminalization and surveillance.

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Key terms from the report defined.

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This report is dedicated to the powerful Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QT2SBIPOC) movements and movement technologists who are visioning and building towards liberatory futures. Read more about the brilliant people and groups who helped this report come together.

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Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures | 2020
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