Angela Davis discusses prisons in Berkeley December 6, 2000 By Cyrus Farivar Daily Californian U. California-Berkeley (U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. -- Echoing many signs that were in homes across the United States during her time as a fugitive in the 1970s, Angela Davis was welcomed to Berkeley with "Angela, sister, you are welcome in this house!" University of California at Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis was greeted with a standing ovation Monday night before giving a speech on the "Criminalization of Youth and the Prison System" at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. After citing the cases of some modern "political prisoners" like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, Davis began her talk by saying that "criminalization" affects all people. "None of us who consume news have been unaffected by this criminalization process over the last two decades," Davis said. Davis cited a recent Justice Policy Institute study dispelling the myth that youth constitute a large part of crime. She also said the social bias of the criminal justice system is shown by the fact that the majority of prison inmates are minorities. According to the professor, criminalization is a process that has nothing to do with crime. "There are other reasons besides a commission of a crime for someone to be in jail," Davis said. "We need to talk about a relationship with race and class (in relation to criminalization) to think about it differently." Davis, a controversial political activist involved with the Black Panthers, did not have her appointment as a lecturer renewed at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1970 because of her socialist political views. Davis was accused in the attempted escape of an imprisoned activist, George Jackson, from the Marin County Hall of Justice. Four people, including the trial judge, were killed in the incident. Davis fled and, charged with kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy, soon became the third woman in history to be put on the FBI's Most Wanted List. She was later captured and was acquitted of all charges in 1972. Davis discussed the founding of the modern prison system in the United States, beginning with the Quaker community in the 18th century. "Rather than giving democracy to the world, the gift of the U.S. is the prisons," Davis said. Davis said that traveling around the world has given her the opportunity to visit many different prisons and that they are all similar -- they all contain minorities. "The prisonization of society is pointing the way to establish a structure which is dependent on and reproduces racism," Davis said. Because of this criminalization process and the "Prison Industrial Complex," Davis called for the abolition of the juvenile justice system, the death penalty and the prison system, drawing unanimous applause from the crowd. In response to a question about the recent alleged sexual assault that took place at the same school where she was speaking, Davis emphasized her previous remarks. "It's a complicated situation," she said. "We have to dismantle this system which contributes to violence." Davis also discussed the topic of the national election in the context of the death penalty. She called Gov. George W. Bush's Texas tenure an "assembly line of death" and said this issue was not adequately discussed. Vice President Al Gore did not escape her wrath either. She said he backed down from confronting the issue and should have "troubled the waters a little bit."
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