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GRIID Class – The Function of Policing in the US and how we can work towards a world Without Police: Part VIII

March 9, 2022

For week #8, the final week our the GRIID class, we read chapters one and six from the book written by Angela Davis, entitled, Are Prisons Obsolete? Since policing is connected to the larger Prison Industrial Complex, it is important for us to continue to investigate the function of prisons through an abolitionist lens. 

In chapter one, Davis lays out for us the scope of the Prison Industrial Complex, how prisons have become a growth industry and how many components there are to this system. In addition, she discussed the increase in the prison population, where the US now has the largest percentage of their population incarcerated than any other country on the world. Davis also provides astute analysis of the economic factors behind 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. There are thus real and often quite complicated connections between the deindustrialization of the economy-a process that reached its peak during the 1980s-and the rise of mass imprisonment, which also began to spiral during the Reagan-Bush era. 

The class also discussed the fact that beginning with the Reagan years, there has been significant pushback against the gains made by the Black Freedom Struggle, with the dismantling of the Welfare System that began in the 1980s and ended in 1994 with the Clinton administration.

In chapter 6, Davis challenges and invites readers to radically imagine what a world would look like without the Prison Industrial Complex, and what we need to do create alternatives to mass incarceration:

What, then, would it mean to imagine a system in which punishment is not allowed to become the source of corporate profit? How can we imagine a society in which race and class are not primary determinants of punishment? Or one in which punishment itself is no longer the central concern in the making of justice? 

The class participants had a lively discussion about how all forms of popular media are filled with narratives about crime, criminals, courtrooms and prisons. In fact, as one person noted, these themes are so normalized, that it is hard to imagine them no longer existing.

We ended our discussion around the urgency and importance of reparative and restorative justice. Reparative and restorative justice are counter to the punitive approaches of justice that the state dishes out, where the main response is a carceral response. Everyone also discussed the importance of practicing restorative and reparative justice, not just as something that other do, but as a collective practice that brings us all closer to liberation.

For those who are interested, here are links to the other seven classes, which also include all of the reading material used:

Part I –

Part II –

Part III –

Part IV –

Part V –

Part VI –

Part VII –

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