PHILOSOPHY LAW 1
Whetherprisons should be abolished and replaced with other alternatives is adebatable issue. The proponents of the abolition of the prison systemclaim that prisons are doing little to curb crime. They only promoteracism and slavery since they target certain races and ethnicities.On the other hand, the opponents of the abolitionist movement feelthat the prison system is the best way through which crime can becontrolled in the society. This is due to the fact that prisons makesocieties safe by keeping away offenders. The purpose of this paperis to support Angela Davis’ argument that prisons are obsolete andthat there is need for them to be abolished and replaced with othergood alternatives.
How convincing do you find Angela Davis’ argument for theabolition of prisons? You should make some use of other classreadings beyond Davis’ to support your view. For example, the otherreadings may give you ammunition with which to criticize Davis’position, or alternatively, they may be mistaken thereby lending morecredibility to her view
In her works, Angel Davis looks at whether prisons arefunctional in terms of curbing crime in the society. She highlightsvarious weaknesses and limitations of the American prison system.Davis argues that American prisons are obsolete. She suggests thatprisons should be abolished and replaced with the best alternativesthat can truly reduce crime and encourage the reformation of theoffenders. Davis proposes various alternatives that can be put inplace. This paper seeks to justify Davis’ argument that Americanprisons need to be abolished. It supports many of the arguments andclaims made by Davis.
Prisons Should Be Abolished
Davis argues that the American prisons only isolate individuals fromtheir families and communities (Davis & Freeman, 2010). They havenothing to do with preventing crime and recidivism rates. The largenumber of incarcerated individuals in U.S. prisons helps to confirmDavis’ arguments. Compared with other countries around the world,the U.S. has the highest number of prison populations. The countryhas more than two million prisoners (Nagel & Nocella, 2013). Thelarge number of inmates in American prisons has made it necessary forthe government to contract various companies in order to constructmore prisons. In some cases, it is the companies that run theprisons.
As far as Davis is concerned, mass incarceration has little or noeffect on the reduction of the official rate of crime in the society(Davis, 2010). Imprisoning more people does not make the communitiessafer. It only puts a burden on the economy of the country.Incarcerating many people means that more prisons are required(Jacobson, 2005). The government has to spend a lot of money to buildenough prisons that can accommodate the large number of inmates. Thismove only benefits construction companies that are give tenders. Itdoes not contribute to the deterrence of crime in any meaningful way.
Davis claims that prison discriminates against the most vulnerableindividuals in the society. These include the poor, homeless, andpersons living with mental health problems (Davis & Freeman,2010). It is easy for these people to be criminalized and imprisoned.This means that prison is there to just maintain the status quo(Selke, 2000). There is nothing more it can do. On the one hand, theinstitution protects the interests of the wealthy and powerfulindividuals in the American society. On the other hand, prisonsupports a system in which the vulnerable individuals in the societycontinue to struggle in order to survive.
Davis points out at the bad conditions of prisons. Many of theAmerican prisons are overcrowded (Davis & Freeman, 2010). Life inthese prisons is difficult. Most inmates sleep on the floor. They donot have mattresses and blankets. Others do not have clothes. Due tothese poor conditions, inmates tend to suffer from pneumonia andother diseases. To make the matters worse, prisoners are providedwith health care services of poor quality (Nagel & Nocella,2013). The kind of health services they are given are only meant tokeep them alive, and not to promote the health. One fails tounderstand whether prison is really playing its role of promoting thereformation of individuals.
Having been incarcerated, Davis observes that prison life subjectswomen to sexual assault (Davis, 2010). The women are sexuallyassaulted by the prisons guards and their fellow inmates. Forinstance, strip search seems to be common in most American femaleprisons. The main function of prison is to prevent by ensuring thatoffenders stay away from the society (Hartnett, 2011). Therefore,prisons should not be used to promote crime. It should not subjectpeople to criminal activities. Sexual assault is a serious crime inany society. When it happens in prison, one fails to understand whatis wrong with the American society.
Davis claims that prisons promote gender differences. This iseffected through the way men and women are rehabilitated while theyare in prison. Rehabilitation helps to prepare them for life in thesociety (Selke, 2000). Davis claims that female prisons serve asinstitutions of enhancing oppressive patriarchal customs andpractices (Davis & Freeman, 2010). The rehabilitation ofincarcerated women normally aims at making them experts in cleaning,cooking, and taking care of children. On the other hand, therehabilitation of male inmates aims at making them responsiblehusbands who can take care of their families. Therefore, prisons onlyserve to widen the gender gap.
As far as Davis is concerned, prisons serve the purpose of promotingthe institution of slavery in the contemporary society (Davis, 2010).Although African bondage was eliminated by the American Civil War,the modern prison system is making an effort to renew it. Many of theindividuals who are in prison are of the African-American origin. TheThirteen Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits any form ofinvoluntary servitude (Selke, 2000). Yet the individuals in Americanprisons are treated just like slaves. They are normally mistreatedby the prison guards. The prisoners do not enjoy their basic rightsand freedoms.
Davis observes that prison enhances racism (Davis, 2010). TheAmerican prisons normally target African Americans. African Americansform the majority of the total number of the incarcerated populationsin the U.S. As Nagel and Nocella (2013) argue, white supremacy isstill the order of the day in the American society. The Blacks aredisregarded and discriminated against by the American criminaljustice system. Even if they commit the same mistakes with thewhites, African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated than thewhites. Prison thus serves as a tool of enhancing racial differencesand discrimination in the American society.
Davis claims that imprisonment is not the most effective form ofpunishment for a criminal. This is due to the fact that prisons dolittle to change the lives of individuals (Davis & Freeman,2010). They do not lead to total behavioral changes among theincarcerated individuals. According to Selke (2000), imprisonmentnever reduces the recidivism rate of offenders. Many of theindividuals who have been incarcerated in the past end up repeatingthe same crime they committed. This shows that prison never changesthe lives of inmates in a positive way. It does not prepare them tolead meaningful lives in the society.
As far as Davis is concerned, although the United States has made asignificant step forward in the introduction of important reforms inits prisons, it has not reached the required level. The prisons lackclear organization. Corruption is common in these prisons. Asignificant number of prison wardens are normally bribed in order toact (Davis, 2010). This means that American prisons are not goodrehabilitation centers. Something has to be done in order to changethe current situation. Total reformation is necessary in order forthe prisons to remain relevant and help in the achievement of thegoal of reducing crime in the society (Jacobson, 2005).
Davis argues that the prison abolitionist movement is anti-capitalistby its nature (Davis & Freeman, 2010). This is due to the factthat it opposes the exploitation if inmates by corporations. Americaembraces the ideology of capitalism. Large American corporationsdepend on prisoners for their economic growth (Hartnett, 2011). Theyexploit them for their cheap labor. For instance, prisoners providelabor in the gold mines owned by some of these corporations.Therefore, the large number of inmates in American prisons is anadvantage to the corporations. It helps them to make huge profits.Yet this is not the real function prison. Prison serves the purposeof helping to reduce crime in the society.
As Davis observes, prisons serve as pre-trial detention chambers andalternative punishments for individuals who are not able to pay finesimposed by courts (Davis, 2010). Those who are able to raise thefines get out of jail within a very short time. This means thatprisons are not truly correctional facilities (Jacobson, 2005).Therefore, individuals should only be imprisoned after all the otheralternatives have been explored unsuccessfully. Prison should not beat the top of the list of options that can be used to punishoffenders. The American criminal justice system needs to reevaluatethe methods it uses to punish criminals.
Davis suggests that incarceration has become the normative responseof the criminal justice system. Prison is considered to be the rightplace for the evildoers in the society (Davis & Freeman, 2010).The criminal justice system is not ready to exploit and make use ofother meaningful alternatives through which the offenders can bepunished. Hartnett (2011) agrees with Davis that prisons should notbe taken for granted. It is important to ensure whether theseinstitutions are indeed playing any role in deterring the occurrenceof crime in the society. Confining offenders for a certain period oftime does not mean that they can change. Meaningful reformation needsto be put in place.
Davis does not shy from proposing that prisons and jails need to beabolished and replaced with other alternatives. She says that theprisons system needs to be removed from the ideological and sociallandscapes of America (Davis & Freeman, 2010). This is due to thefact that it is not an effective way of punishing offenders andpreventing crime. Some of the alternatives of imprisonment that Davissuggests include revitalization if the education system,demilitarization of schools, and improvement of the criminal justicesystem (Davis & Freeman, 2010). If implemented well, there ishope that these alternatives can help to lower the rate of crime inthe American society.
Davis provides important insights into the actual situation of theAmerican prison system. She observes that mass incarceration inAmerican prisons only serves to enhance slavery and racism. It doesnot help to curb crime by way of promoting the rehabilitation ofoffenders. Davis concludes that American prisons should be abolished.She suggests that they should be replaced with alternatives such asimprovement of the criminal justice system, demilitarization ofschools, and revitalization of the education system.
Davis, A. Y. (2010). Abolition Democracy: Prisons, Democracy andEmpire. New York: Seven Stories Press.
Davis, A. Y., & Freeman, S. (2010). Are Prisons Obsolete?.New York: Seven Stories Press.
Hartnett, S. J. (2011). Challenging the prison-industrial complex:Activism, arts, and educational alternatives. Urbana: Universityof Illinois Press.
Jacobson, M. (2005). Downsizing prisons: How to reduce crime andend mass incarceration. New York and London: New York UniversityPress.
Nagel, M. E., & Nocella, A. J. (2013). The end of prisons:Reflections from the decarceration movement. Amsterdam [etc.:Rodopi.
Selke, W. L. (2000). Prisons in crisis. Bloomington: IndianaUniversity Press.