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Are Prisons Obsolete? 0th Edition
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This thoroughly researched book by Angela Davis articulates everything I instinctively felt when I got a first hand glimpse of prison life. With the patience and restraint of a Saint, Angela Davis challenges thinking people to face the human rights catastrophe in our jails and prisons.
It is the authors hope that this book will encourage readers to question their own assumptions about prison. It is my hope that this book will be widely read by everyone involved in the field of education and politics. It should be on the recommended reading list of all high schools, colleges and universities.
Suza Francina, former Mayor, Ojai, California, and author, The New Yoga for People Over 50.
Once these "Black Codes" were in place, prisons in the South were rapidly filled with Blacks. Prior to the Civil War, prisoners in the South were overwhelmingly White. After Reconstruction, they were overwhelmingly Black.
These new prisoners were "leased" to White plantation owners, at a flat fee. With no capital invested in these new slaves, many were simply worked to death. The economic incentive to ensure that the prisons were full was inescapable.
In this short, but powerful, book, Angela Davis makes the case that this pattern of incarcerating Blacks, set during the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, carries through to the present. Today the economics of incarceration are more subtle. Money is not primarily made through the labor of prisoners (although that still happens). Today, the real money is made by the underwriters who sell the bonds to finance prison construction, the myriad of industries which supply the country's 2 million prisoners with everything from soap to light bulbs, and by rural America, where the last three decades of de-industrialization has left prison as one of the very few decent paying union jobs available to formerly blue collar workers.
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The division between prison reform and prison abolition is an artificial one that need not slow the progress of either prison reform or the development of abolitionist theory. I've heard Davis speak on the subject as well. She emphasizes the need to both insist that correctional institutions be reformed AND to acknowledge that there is no "just" way to incarcerate people at the rate that the US currently does.
Read this book to expand you field of vision about the alternatives to the current criminal justice system and to place these issues in historical context.
I recommend to people interested in an intro to contemporary prison issues Christian Parenti's book Lockdown America -- he is as angry as Davis, but his book provides more statistical and descriptive evidence than she does as to why you should be angry as well. Articles written by prisoners themselves are collected in the 1998 collection The Celling of America ed by Daniel Burton-Rose and 2003's Prison Nation ed by T. Herivel and P. Wright. (Note that Prison Nation includes articles written by non-prisoners as well.)
Prison activists and those who are currently reading into the american prison system should read Davis' book, but I urge those looking for an introduction not to start here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was very informative, lots of information. I wish it were longer, it's a subject that has always interested me. It's a quick read, and it will not disappoint!Published 16 days ago by Refugio
Must read. The REAL reason so many black males and females are incarcerated!!Published 20 days ago by Robert L. Grey
great insight to the prison industrial complex. I love this bookPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is must read for all Americans, especially for those interested in seeing the U.S. fulfill its commitment to providing justice for all. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jeffrey R.
Informative, accessible, and awareness raising. A must read.Published 6 months ago by Ardavan Darab Davaran
The only reason I bought this book was for a class I took. Its main redeeming point is that it's short and cheap, so I didn't waste too much time and money on this. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Luke J. Barber
We can indeed build a new world by deconstructing the old one. We need a world without cops and jails. Brick by brick, wall by wall.Published 6 months ago by David Bliven