Free Angela Davis... from questions about the past

Angela Davis wants to dismantle the "prison-industrial complex."

To those of a certain age, "Free Angela Davis" evokes memories of an outspoken Black Panther/Communist with the giant Afro who was incarcerated after a judge was killed with her shotgun.

Sure she's a noted philosopher, scholar and activist, but UVA is loaded with those. The draw for some to the Carter G. Woodson Institute worthy April 16-17 symposium on why the United States puts so many of its citizens in jail is the '70s icon-side of Davis. Although celebrated in songs by both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, she isn't resting on her fame or her notoriety.

It's been nearly 40 years since the then-UCLA college professor was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Her hair, no longer in the signature Afro, still looks exuberant at a hastily thrown together April 13 press conference to drum up attention for "The Problem of Punishment: Race, Inequality, and Justice," where Davis and her hosts keep steering reporters' questions (okay, one reporter's questions) back to the symposium and away from Davis' colorful past.

Her current mission is the abolition of prisons.

"The most important element of abolition is to make institutions of incarceration unnecessary," says Davis. "Imagine a different kind of justice–- not retribution and revenge, but rehabilitation and restoration."

She was already a prison activist in 1970, working with the Black Panthers to free George Jackson, one of the three "Soledad brothers," when a shotgun registered to Davis was taped to the neck of Marin County Judge Harold Haley, who was taken hostage by Jackson's 17-year-old brother, Jonathan Jackson, and then killed in the doomed plot to rescue the Soledad brothers.

Davis fled, was captured by the FBI, and ultimately was acquitted by an all-white jury in 1972 of all charges relating to the kidnapping and killing of Haley.

So how did teenaged Jonathan Jackson get a shotgun belonging to Davis?

"When I was fired from my position as an assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA," Davis explains, recalling the era when Commie-hating Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, urged her ouster, "I had to have people doing security."

Protection by campus police ended at the edge of campus, so Jonathan Jackson along with others toted shotguns to protect Davis.

"It was a very sad situation," says Davis, speaking of Jonathan Jackson, who was killed by police when he tried to escape with Judge Haley. "He became so frustrated his brother was behind bars for stealing $70."

"Are there any questions about the symposium?" asks Deborah McDowell, director of the Woodson Institute.

When one last question is asked about possible misperceptions about Davis and her beliefs, the activist replies, "I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think. I'm not interested in answering questions about Jonathan Jackson. I worry how we're going to dismantle the [prison] system."

Davis certainly has the prison cred on top of the celebrity, as she spent more than a year in jail before her conspiracy acquittal. She is now professor emeritus at University of California, Santa Cruz; and she wants to draw attention to the fact that one in 100 American adults lives behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the world.

She decries the "dramatic disparity" in the number of people incarcerated in the "prison-industrial complex." And she calls the "racism" that locks up so many people of color a vestige of slavery.

Even though she's no longer officially a communist, Davis is no stranger to protests. While UVA conservatives have announced no protest plans at this point, "The College Republicans would object to her being here because of her economic beliefs because we're capitalists," says chairman Josh Lambert. "Communism, the party she was a member of, is a failed economic and political system."

Lambert doesn't buy the notion of prison abolition, either.

"It's a radical idea," he says. "The university community is one where we can discuss ideas. It's too radical to be seriously considered in an academic discussion. Prison reform we can talk about. Prison abolition–- it's not going to happen."

Former FBI agent and sheriff Ed Robb spent four years with the Virginia Department of Correctional Education, and although he too is a Republican and finds prison abolition too extreme, he agrees with Davis on the need for reform.

"We need need to re-evaluate the way we're doing things," says Robb. "If we keep doing things the way we have been, we'll keep getting results we have, and that's not great."

Keynote speaker Davis talks at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 16 at the Newcomb Hall ballroom, and the event is free, as are all symposium events.

Read more on: angela davisprison


Abolish the prisons?
Why would UVA even give someone with such a ridiculous premise a mouthpiece?

This woman preaches that too many blacks are in jail. The problem is that there are not enough whites in jail because they can afford lawyers to get them off. The answer is to spend whatever it takes to get the trash off the street regardless of color so that they stop contaminating our young. Once someone pulls a knife or gun on another human being the odds are slim that they can be fixed. Lock em up and throw away the key.

When the kids see what happens to trash they will stop emulating them.

If she thinks we don't need jail. let her take a stroll thru fifeville after midnight and see what happens.

what a joke.

I suppose billy bob would prefer to throw open the doors and put two million criminals out on the streets... even if only ten percent are wack jobs then thats 200,000 or 4000 per state wandering the streets.

Their offspring alone would cost more than keeping them in jail.

Once they rape and pillage AGAIN what do you suppose we do with them?

college scholarship? government job?

There are needs to reform the penal system, eliminating prisons is as ridiculous as it gets. Some of these people are EVIL and a danger to the rest of us.

But then again I am sure you would be happy to hire them as a babysitter for your daughter, elderly parent or the cigar box of money in the closet.

Angela Davis is still a small "c" communist and a liar. She has been a leader of the CPUSA split off faction known as the Committee of Correspondence, that was also led by CPUSA theoretician Herbert Aptheker until his death.

Re her shotgun. She never explained how it go into Jonathan Jackson's hands, and had become a sawed-off shotgun, a federal violation right there. Someone got her gun and smuggled it to Jackson. How do you say "conspiracy"?

Davis supported every communist terrorist and aggressive movement in the world from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (and the resultant genocide there), to Angola, Mozambique, No. Korea and those in Latin America (Tupermaros, MIRA, Sandinistas, FLMN, FARC).

She has a lot of blood on her hands, but communists don't worry about how many people they tortured or killed. Just look at the fawning Congressional Black Caucus and their trip to kiss Castro's ass. Castro, his brother Raul, and Che' tortured and executed well over 15,000 Cubans of all political persuasions, yet people still wear Che and Angela Davis t-shirts. What next, t-shirts of Hitler and Stalin?

Davis, from a Communist Party family, is indicative of the mental disease that is "communism", often known as "the cancer of the soul." And Liberal Fascists are the ones who supported and support her, and her racist, communist garbage that she teaches and preaches to the great unwashed.

She belongs to that group of radical sociologists and criminologists who always blame society for people doing criminal things, rather than the individual and their lack of responsibility in obeying the laws.

And this is racist because the greater majority of black people are not criminals, do not rob, rape and kill, don't hate others, and are hard-working, church-going folks. The latter is what the communists like Davis can't stand, that black people can be decent, religious and law abiding in a capitalist society.

This is the "silent racism" of communism, and you will find it in Castro's jails today where many of the leading dissidents are black Cubans. As one person commented about their trip to Cuba a number of years ago, when he looked at the leadership of the Cuban Communist government, it was pretty "white."

Nuff said. Davis is an ideological psychopath and always will be. Drink her kool-aid at your own risk.

Why did you put racism in quotation marks Ms. Provence?

Max Friedman are you talking about those people who hold $2T worth of American debt in order to keep our economy going and above a Depression?

she is retired from UCSC.

Is this all you have to report on, why even give her media attention, I guess that judge's life meant nothing.

ronny touches on the problem of unequal justice in our society and his answer is increased incarceration. This is despite the fact that there are 2 million Americans behind bars right now.

Why would the hook give someone (ronny) with such a ridiculous premise a mouthpiece?

Rehabilitation sounds nice but I think I'd prefer rapist or pedophiles live on her side of the street until they are rehabilitated. Better yet casterate them and problem solved!

Alison, I believe Ms. Provence put the word "racism" in quotes not because it was grammatically correct (the quotes were unnecessary to impart the meaning of the sentence) but to demonstrate that the racism being referred to doesn't actually exist. The reason the law is applied differently to blacks as opposed to whites in this country is just happenstance! Or, as Ronny points out, the fact that whites can "afford lawyers".

We live in a society where someone is castigated for using a racial slur but black people are investigated, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced at a higher rate than whites. If you control for all variables this has been shown time and time again. But it's not because of "racism"!!! no no no no no!!

Once it was reported that black people are more likely to do crack cocaine as opposed to the powder variety, the federal government literally passed laws that made the punishment harsher for possessing and/or distributing this processed form of the same exact drug. Ashley Biden needn't worry if the video tape IS her; she'll merely get a slap on the wrist (her dad's vote back in the 80s will make sure of that).

Maybe Ms. Provence is pointing out that if black people stopped complaining about "racism", then white people won't be so angry at them? Maybe she's pointing out that there is no legacy from slavery? Maybe she's pointing out that slavery wasn't that bad? Maybe she's saying that UVA shouldn't have speakers that denigrate the "heritage" of Virginia?

It's impossible to know what Ms. Provence meant by putting quotation marks around the word "racism" except that she clearly meant that the word is Ms. Davis' and not her own. Apparently this word is in a entirely other lexicon than the one that Ms. Provence employs.

"We live in a society where someone is castigated for using a racial slur but black people are investigated, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced at a higher rate than whites."

91% of all 911 calls that describe an assailant describe a black male between 15 and 50 years old. Maybe they are being investigated, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for a reason other than racism. Unless of course all of those people who called 911 in a panic just made it up because they hate black people.

Thank you Lisa, it was confusing in the context.

Racism is in quotation marks to indicate it's a word Davis used. Sorry if it created confusion.

I've never seen such racist people in all my life. You all have a narrow way of thinking as well. Open your minds and don't state facts that are not backed up by any real evidence.

A sad reality, many of those incarcerated will repeat crimes once turned out. Check out the stats! Sex offenders and many violent offenders are known to often repeat misdeeds. One would think these criminals once released from prison would do everything in their power not to return to lockup. But, as I read even the local crime reports, many of these thugs DO re offend.Angela appears to be viewing the real world through a fog. If one could be reasonably sure these criminals would "back off" upon release, I would advocate turning them out. I think the trick is salvaging young offenders before they are ruined in adult prisons. Offering a steady, secure, and structured change for young offenders shows promise. I'm afraid many of the seasoned criminals are too far gone, whatever their race. I realize more African Americans and People Of Color are imprisoned. Angela may do well to focus on preventative measures for any young offenders, those Of Color who are at risk. Turning out non remediated criminals on the streets of Charlottesville is certainly problematic and it is taking a real toll on public safety for law abiding people.

Did she also use the word "slavery"? Why was that word NOT put into quotes?

Sorry Max, but there is nothing in the Founding Documents forbidding big or small "c" communism, and I've never seen proof that it is any more immoral than capitalism (which is not mandated in the Founding Documents). This stuff is not complicated-the embracing of communism but some of our historical figures is nothing more than a reaction to the shortcomings of the most powerful capitalist nation in the history of mankind.