july 2003 by Angela Davis, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, et al. Incarceration is used to steal civil rights (such as voting rights) and to ensure continued social marginalization for millions of people of color. By Angela Y. Davis
Prisons Are Obsolete. With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison. So when my friend showed up at my apartment with Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete?, I put my reading list on hold to check it out. Are Prisons Obsolete? Davis’ central point is worth studying and bringing to the foreground in the prison reform movement. Recognizing that much of the contemporary discourse surrounding police and prison abolition has its roots in the Black Radical Tradition—particularly Black Feminism—there is perhaps no one better to read right now than Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a lifelong revolutionary activist and scholar. By 2000 there were 26 for-profit prison corporations that operated 150 prisons across the country. Lets Watch a Video! independent student newspaper of The University of Are Prisons Obsolete? : A Reading List on Police, Prisons, and Protest, Against Police Violence: Writers of Conscience Speak Out, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture. While not opposed to reforms that improve the quality of life for incarcerated people, Davis suggests that too much emphasis on reform can naturalize the prison.
Tracing the transformation of the prison system, from a progressive alternative to capital or corporal punishment during the early modern era, to the convict leasing of the Jim Crow South, and finally to the international rise of the supermax and private prison mega-corporations in the 1970s, Davis follows a thread of labor and profitability as central to the proliferation of carceral ideology. Davis points to the increased involvement of corporations in prison construction, security, health care delivery, food programs and commodity production using prison labor as the main source of the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Many of these books are definitely useful, though some of those most common to this flowering genre are more contemporary, take a rather cursory glance at the history of radical anti-racist movements, and can be underwhelming. Board members at Hospital Corporation of America helped to found Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), now the largest private prison corporation in the country. Elsewhere, Davis analyzes the historical evolution of the political economy of the prison system to identify specific ways in which certain populations have been coded as criminal.