What is abolitionist

social work?

What we mean by “social work”


We recognize “social work” to include all workers who identify with the field — from social service workers to organizers, clinicians to policy makers, and those with and without social work degrees or licenses.

Advancing abolitionist social work


For NAASW, advancing abolitionist social work is less focused upon drawing the boundaries around what is and isn’t abolitionist social work, but rather about naming and challenging carceral social work in all of its forms. It also strives to amplify a practice of social work aimed at dismantling the prison industrial complex (PIC) and building the life-affirming horizon to which abolition aspires. 


Social work has the potential to work towards abolition through partnering in the work of ending state and institutional violence, while supporting life- affirming relationships, practices and organizing. The theory and practice of PIC abolition provides a framework and a set of strategies to recalibrate what social work is and can be. We are committed to working towards a social work rooted in solidarity over charity, one that is decolonized, de-professionalized, anti-capitalist, and is committed to accountability, reparations, and continual transformation. This requires that social work become unrecognizable from its current form.

Mimi Kim

Vivianne Guevara

Michelle Grier

Sarah Knight

Tiffany McFadden

Sheila  Vakharia

Caitlin Becker

Cameron Rasmussen

Durrell Washington

Rosie Ríos

Nikita Rahman