Take 50% off digital copies of Are Prisons Obsolete? and Abolition Democracy by Dr. Angela Y. Davis
For more writings against the prison industrial complex, check out Abolish!: A Reading List on Police, Prisons, and Protest
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. As she quite correctly notes, American life is replete with abolition movements, and when they were engaged in these struggles, their chances of success seemed almost unthinkable. For generations of Americans, the abolition of slavery was sheerest illusion. Similarly, the entrenched system of racial segregation seemed to last forever, and generations lived in the midst of the practice, with few predicting its passage from custom. The brutal, exploitative (dare one say lucrative?) convict-lease system that succeeded formal slavery reaped millions to southern jurisdictions (and untold miseries for tens of thousands of men, and women). Few predicted its passing from the American penal landscape. Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable.
In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She argues forthrightly for "decarceration," and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole.
Revelations about U.S. policies and practices of torture and abuse have captured headlines ever since the breaking of the Abu Ghraib prison story in April 2004. Since then, a debate has raged regarding what is and what is not acceptable behavior for the world's leading democracy. It is within this context that Angela Davis, one of America's most remarkable political figures, gave a series of interviews to discuss resistance and law, institutional sexual coercion, politics and prison. Davis talks about her own incarceration, as well as her experiences as "enemy of the state," and about having been put on the FBI's "most wanted list." She talks about the crucial role that international activism played in her case and the case of many other political prisoners.
Throughout these interviews, Davis returns to her critique of a democracy that has been compromised by its racist origins and institutions. Discussing the most recent disclosures about the disavowed "chain of command," and the formal reports by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch denouncing U.S. violation of human rights and the laws of war in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, Davis focuses on the underpinnings of prison regimes in the United States.
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"The ideas that can and will sustain our movement for total freedom and dignity of the people cannot be imprisoned, for they are to be found in the people, all the people, wherever they are. As long as the people live by the ideas of freedom and dignity, there will be no prison that can hold our movement down.” ―Huey P. Newton
Defund the Police. Abolish Prisons. Refuse State Repression.
- “Fighting to Win” from Full Spectrum Resistance: Building Movements and Fighting to Win by Aric McBay (2019)
- “The Problem is Civil Obedience” from The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, Updated and Expanded 2nd Edition by Howard Zinn (2009)
- “Slavery, Civil Rights, and Abolitionist Perspectives Toward Prison” from Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis (2005)
- “Women in Prison: How We Are” by Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard), 1978, from Voices of a People’s History of the United States, 10th Anniversary Edition, edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove (2014)
- “We Remember the Days of Glory but Tend to Forget They Were Fourteen-Hour Days” from ’68: The Mexican Autumn of the Tlatelolco Massacre by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (2019)
- “Even Liars Know the Truth” from ’68: The Mexican Autumn of the Tlatelolco Massacre by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (2019)
- “Prison, Where Is Thy Victory?: January 3, 1970” by Huey P. Newton (1969), from The New Huey P. Newton Reader, edited by David Hilliard and Donald Weise (2020)”