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a friend and comrade just pointed me at Angela Davis' "Are Prisons Obsolete?" so I'm going to be reading that before coming back to the (so far excellent) The End of Policing.

(As with the other theory I'm reading, I'll post a thread of quotes that I find interesting. This helps me engage with the text better. I'm not aiming to summarise or anything, so please do seek out the source material.)

Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Few people find life without the death penalty difficult to imagine. On the other hand, the prison is considered an inevitable and permanent feature of our social lives.

(sorry for the repost, i'm a dumbass)

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> In most circles prison abolition is simply unthinkable and implausible. Prison abolitionists are dismissed as utopians and idealists whose ideas are at best unrealistic and impracticable, and, at worst, mystifying and foolish.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Many people have already reached the conclusion that the death penalty is an outmoded form of punishment that violates basic principles of human rights. It is time, I believe, to encourage similar conversations about the prison.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> in the 1980s during what is known as the Reagan era, politicians argued that “tough on crime” stances—including certain imprisonment and longer sentences—would keep communities free of crime. However, the practice of mass incarceration during that period had little or no effect on official crime rates

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Because of the extent to which prison building and operation began to attract vast amounts of capital—from the construction industry to food and health care provision—in a way that recalled the emergence of the military industrial complex, we began to refer to a “prison industrial complex.”

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> The first state prison in California was San Quentin, which opened in 1852.

TIL

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> a massive project of prison construction was initiated [in, as an example, California] during the 1980s—that is, during the years of the Reagan presidency. Nine prisons, including the Northern California Facility for Women, were opened between 1984 and 1989. Recall that it had taken more than a hundred years to build the first nine California prisons.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Why do prisons tend to make people think that their own rights and liberties are more secure than they would be if prisons did not exist? What other reasons might there have been for the rapidity with which prisons began to colonize the California landscape?

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Geographer Ruth Gilmore describes the expansion of prisons in California as “a geographical solution to socio-economic problems.”

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> The State bought land sold by big landowners. And the State assured the small, depressed towns now shadowed by prisons that the new, recession-proof, non-polluting industry would jump-start local redevelopment. But, as Gilmore points out, neither the jobs nor the more general economic revitalization promised by prisons has occurred.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> It is difficult to imagine life without [prisons]. At the same time, there is reluctance to face the realities hidden within them, a fear of thinking about what happens inside them. Thus, the prison is present in our lives and, at the same time, it is absent from our lives. To think about this simultaneous presence and absence is to begin to acknowledge the part played by ideology in shaping the way we interact with our social surroundings.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Because it would be too agonizing to cope with the possibility that anyone, including ourselves, could become a prisoner, we tend to think of the prison as disconnected from our own lives. This is even true for some of us, women as well as men, who have already experienced imprisonment. We thus think about imprisonment as a fate reserved for others

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Because of the persistent power of racism, “criminals” and “evildoers” are, in the collective imagination, fantasized as people of color. The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> Put simply, this is the era of the prison industrial complex. The prison has become a black hole into which the detritus of contemporary capitalism is deposited. Mass imprisonment generates profits as it devours social wealth, and thus it tends to reproduce the very conditions that lead people to prison.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> The history of visuality linked to the prison is also a main reinforcement of the institution of the prison as a naturalized part of our social landscape. The history of film has always been wedded to the representation of incarceration. Thomas Edison’s first films ... included footage of the darkest recesses of the prison. Thus, the prison is wedded to our experience of visuality, creating also a sense of its permanence as an institution.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> The prison is one of the most important features of our image environment. This has caused us to take the existence of prisons for granted. The prison has become a key ingredient of our common sense. It is there, all around us. We do not question whether it should exist. It has become so much a part of our lives that it requires a great feat of the imagination to envision life beyond the prison.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> a new category was invented—that of the super-maximum security prison, or the supermax. The turn toward increased repression in a prison system, distinguished from the beginning of its history by its repressive regimes, caused some journalists, public intellectuals, and progressive agencies to oppose the growing reliance on prisons to solve social problems that are actually exacerbated by mass incarceration.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> While public discourse has become more flexible, the emphasis is almost inevitably on generating the changes that will produce a better prison system. In other words, the increased flexibility that has allowed for critical discussion of the problems associated with the expansion of prisons also restricts this discussion to the question of prison reform.

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Angela Davis - Are Prisons Obsolete? 

> The most difficult and urgent challenge today is that of creatively exploring new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor.

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