ANGELA Y. DAVIS
The Prison Industrial Complex
CD - $12.00
Over the last generation, the United States prison systems have grown at a rate unparalleled in history, creating what many call a Prison Industrial Complex. What happens to our legal system, our Constitution, our democracy, when a substantial part of the population feel it in their economic self-interest to lock up more and more people for longer and longer sentences? Which industries are a part of the Prison Industrial Complex? How are they profiting from prisons? And how are they using their power to affect criminal law and public opinion? How are people organizing to stop or slow prison growth? What is prison abolition?
To the extent we think about these questions at all, it is because of the tireless work of Angela Davis. She has toured the country for the last decade speaking out against prison expansion, and she was the prime mover behind the 1997 conference Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex, which drew over 3,500 participants to Berkeley, California.
This 1997 talk from Boulder, Colorado offers a succinct yet compelling argument that the time to stop prison expansion is now. Angela Davis is a legendary speaker, known for the clarity & subtlety of her thought and the compelling compassion of her delivery.
Aside from talking about the Prison Industrial Complex, Angela Davis discusses the evils of Nike, corporate crimes, the demonization of immigrants, and crimes against the environment, amongst other issues.
Check out her related book, Are Prisons Obsolete?
"Angela Davis deserves respect for
honesty, insight and passion. Much of her 60s concern for the development of
the prison industrial complex and its function in the control of minority
communities was prescient. At the center of Davis‚ argument is an undeniable
truth: there is a fear of young black men that emerges from a social
irrationalism, one concerned with specifying a form for a specter. To
summarize her argument, the fear of communism and fear of crime spring from
equivalent psychological processes: the racialized criminal has become the
New Enemy... The representation of black men
most especially as a social threat is an old American phenomenon that
continually renews itself, as the current exhibit of lynching photographs and
postcards at a New York gallery evidences in the most graphic and horrible
terms. This image of racial violence haunts American life, and prisons have
joined lynching as new sites of brutality. Instead of burning humans alive
now, the United States buries them alive in prisons. The U.S. prison system
functions today in largest part as a disciplinary system for people of color,
with little remaining of its correctional ideology. The words of Frederick
Douglass introducing Ida Wells‚ On Lynching --- "If American conscience were
only half alive, if the American church and clergy were only half
Christianized, if American moral sensibility were not hardened by persistent
infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror,
shame and indignation would rise to Heaven" --- are as equally valid for the
U.S. prison system as their original context of lynching.
As Davis argues, "We have learned how to forget prisons." They exist as an
invisible world, cut off from the outside.' To counter this social
forgetfulness, Davis seeks to make prisons more visible within the community.
She calls ultimately for the creation of a new abolitionist movement against
prisons that will reshape their form and programs.
Davis integrates her discussion of prisons into the rise of a contemporary
social discipline, one that functions through the abuses of transnational
capital against Third World labor as much as through creating a profitable
domestic architecture building refuse bins for human beings. A broad set of
linkages spread out through her discussion. As Davis points out, "Prisons
move into the vacuum that has been created as transnational corporations move
out." Communities without employment chase after new prison construction
projects, and labor from among the two million prisoners in the United States
has become as cheap as Third World labor. Fresh labor arrives all the time,
particularly from the increasing number of women going into the prison system
as welfare services shut down and women enter the largest alternative
economies --- drugs and sex --- for lack of a mainstream economic
alternative. The prison industrial complex has acquired its own imperial
logic and momentum. Ironically, if this observation arrives together with
still-radical economic analysis from Davis, its major point has become
accepted wisdom among more mainstream political thinking that has watched
lobbying by prison guard unions shape criminal codes and seen prison
expenditures soar over higher education investments.
If American conscience were only half-alive, it might listen to Davis and
others protesting the relentless expansion of the prison systems."
- Bad Subjects On-line
"Over the last generation, the United States prison systems have grown at a rate unparalleled in history, creating what many call a Prison Industrial Complex. What happens to our legal system, our Constitution, our democracy, when a substantial part of the population feel it in their economic self-interest to lock up more and more people for longer and longer sentences? Which industries are a part of the Prison Industrial Complex? How are they profiting from prisons? And how are they using their power to affect criminal law and public opinion? How are people organizing to stop or slow prison growth? What is prison abolition?"