Are Prisons Obsolete Angela Davis Summary Essay

The prison industrial complex concept is used to link the rapid US inmate population expansion to the political impact of privately owned prisons. This concept supports the power of the people who get their power from racial and economic advantages. One of the many ways this power is maintained is through the creation of media images that kept the stereotypes of people of color, poor people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other oppressed communities as criminal or sexual deviants alive in today’s society. This power is also maintained by earning political gains for the “tough on crime” politicians.

In a country with a population being 13% African American, an increasing rate of prisoners are African American women, which makes one half of the population in prison African American. Angela Davis argues in the book Are Prisons Obsolete? that African American incarceration rates can be linked to the “historical efforts to create a profitable punishment industry based on the new supply of ‘free’ black male laborers in the aftermath of the Civil War. ” (93-4) Where the Black Codes were created as a list of punishable crimes committed only by African Americans.

This created a disproportionately black penal population in the South during that time leaving the “easy acceptance of disproportionately black prison population today. ” (Davis 94) The prison boom can be attributed to institutionalized racism where criminals “are fantasized as people of color” (Davis 16) and how their incarceration seems natural. Incarceration is used to stripe the civil rights from people of color, such as voting rights, to guarantee the marginalization of many people of color.

Davis adds women into the discussion not as a way just to include women but as a way to highlight the ideas that prisons practices are neutral among men and women. Women are more likely put in mental institutions receive psychiatric drugs and experience sexual assault. Davis writes that “deviant men have been constructed as criminal, while deviant women have been constructed as insane,” (66) creating the gender views that men who have been criminalized behave within the bounds of “normal” male behavior, while criminalized women are beyond moral rehabilitation.

With prison becoming a new source of income for private corporations, prison corporations need more facilities and prisoners to increase profits. It’s become clear that the prison boom is not the cause of increased crime but with the profitability of prisons as Davis says “That many corporations with global markets now rely on prisons as an important source of profits helps us to understand the rapidity with which prisons began to proliferate precisely at a time when official studies indicated that the crime rate was falling. (85) With corporations like Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Alliant Techsystems and General Dynamics pushing their “crime fighting” technology to state and local governments.

Billions of profits are being made from prisons by selling products like Dial soap, AT&T calling cards, and many more. Grassroots organizing movements are challenging the belief that what is considered safe is the controlling and caging of people. The stories that are told in the book, When We Fight, We Win by Greg Jobin-Leeds, are of a “visionary movement to reclaim our humanity. Stories like that of Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, who is known for being one of the three women who created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, created a organization who “fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated, their families, and communities” (Leeds 58) after her brother was a victim to sheriff violence in the L. A. County Jail. Che Gossett, a self identified “black trans/gender queer femme,” who fights to normalize transgender identities because of the criminalization of queer people.

Where “walking while trans” is the police assumption that these people are sex workers. Walidah Imarisha who travels around Oregon speaking about possible choices to incarceration, getting people to think where “they have no idea that there’s anything possible other than prisons. ” (Leeds 62) Imarisha explains why the majority of these movements are lead by woman: “Working-class mothers whose children had gone to prison. Some of them were raising their grandchildren. These are the folks who are bearing the brunt at home of the prison system. (Leeds 68)

These women, mothers, sisters, and daughters are the most impacted by these injustices. Those that are incarcerated challenge the way we think of the definition incarcerated. Inmates protested the use of prison phone calls, stopping one of any ways private corporations profited from the prison system, as a way to get a law library. Another inmate protest was in 2013, where there were hunger strikes involving thousands of inmates protesting to reform the long-term solitary confinement, where inmates can be locked in their cells for more than twenty-two hours a day.

Two years later Organizations like Safe OUTside the System, led by and for LGBTQ people of color, who organizes and educates on how to stop violence without relying on the police to local businesses and community organizations and offers ways to stop social violence. Mass incarceration is not the solution to the social problems within our society today but a great majority has been tricked into believing the effectiveness of imprisonment when this is not the case historically.

African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian youth have been portrayed as “criminals and evildoers,” while young African American and Latina women are portrayed as sexually immoral, confirming the idea that criminality and deviance are racialized. Movements lead mostly by women of color are challenging the prison industrial complex concept, looking for the elimination of imprisonment and policing; creating substitutes to punishment and imprisonment.