Prison Issues


ICOPA XIV - Trinidad 2012

Official Statement by Anthony P. Gonzales and Catherine Ali, ICOPA Coordinators

Our Ref: 10/96                                                                                                                                                                                                12thJuly, 2012

Dear Friends of ICOPA,

             Thank you all for presenting and for participating in four days of dialogue at ICOPA 14, at The University of The West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. There have been many positive responses and the organizing team enjoys the satisfaction of a job well done. An enormous amount of work was undertaken by Liz Griffith, Marilyn Ramon-Fortuné, Keshan Latchman, Gerard Modeste, Adrian Alexander and Jacqueline Roberts on a voluntary basis, for a cause they had never heard of up to a few months ago, and have come to appreciate as deserving of their energy. They are an exemplary team.

Dr. Anthony Gonzales, Interim Director of the Institute of International Relations, provided a home for the international conference at the University and saw its practical value particularly as many countries can no longer afford prisons and have not considered alternatives. His acceptance, and the support of the Principal, Professor Clement Sankat and Mrs. Elizabeth Mc Comie, effectively directed our initial planning efforts and gave status to the conference. Consequently we attracted students and staff from the Police Academy, the Prison Training College, and the Youth Training Centre, in addition to Criminology representatives from UWI, UTT and COSTATT - all of whom want to move forward together and continue the conversation in regular local fora. Perhaps we could rotate a half-day symposium through these venues at regular intervals.

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ICOPA Information Links

 icopa hall



The International Conference On Penal Abolition (ICOPA) founders have established a small trust to continue the conferences and build the movement for penal abolition.




ICOPA 14 in Trinidad in June 2012 had participants from around the world including professors and prisoners.

YouTube videos are at: http://youtu.be/RmFgH_MqbXo and http://youtu.be/09VSkpYy5sw




The modern abolition movement has roots in European criminologists promoting abolition, and American (mostly Quaker) abolitionists.

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ICOPA History

The International Conference on Penal Abolition
written by the late Ruth Morris.

Rittenhouse, Canada 1997

The modern abolition movement has roots in European criminologists promoting abolition, and American (mostly Quaker) abolitionists. Fay Honey Knopp's group in the USA produced a landmark book called Instead of Prisons. This group and this book helped infect Canadians with the abolition call. The Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice, of the Canadian Friends Service Committee, worked for years to educate Canadian Quakers.

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ICOPA Introduction


"The time has come to abolish the game of crime and punishment, and to substitute a paradigm of restitution and responsibility. The goal is the civilization of our treatment of offenders."
Ruth Morris of Rittenhouse, Canada 1997


What is ICOPA?

The International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA) is bi-annual global gathering of a variety of people around the world including academics, activists, practitioners and people who are currently or were previously imprisoned. The conference encourages a dialogue for new ideas to work towards the abolition of imprisonment and the penal system. The ICOPA 14 was held in Trinidad to address the main issues concerning the Caribbean penal system and the actions to be taken in order for abolition to occur. Justice Action was invited to participate in ICOPA and contributed its perspective on the crime situation in the Caribbean, the government authorities and the prison system. The next ICOPA is scheduled to be held in Canada in 2014 with the aim to further strive for the abolition of the penal system.

International Conference on Penal Abolition

The Movement to Abolish Prisons is as old as prisons themselves. In the 19th century, voices like Thomas Buxton of the British Parliament and Victor Hugo of France condemned the prison system and retributive justice. In 1976 Gilbert Cantor, a former editor of the Philadelphia Bar magazine, wrote in that prestigious magazine: "If our entire criminal justice apparatus were simply closed down...there would probably be a decrease in the amount of behaviour now labelled 'criminal.'

In 1981, the Canadian Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice planted the seed that grew to become ICOPA. Since 1982, fifteen international conferences have been held in all regions of the world. 


The Abolition Foundation
ICOPA founders have established a small trust to continue the conferences and build the movement for penal abolition.
ICOPA needs your help and support.


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