Imagine a world where the 13 year old boy who broke into his neighbor’s house, stole the bounty of prescription drugs from the medicine cabinet to sell to the test-crazy high school students who hang out near his middle school working his debt off by serving his community instead of time in a juvenile detention facility. Imagine him reciting his contrition and intention to do better at a meeting of his family, friends and neighbors at the community center or neighborhood church. Imagine him standing in a receiving line where his elders embrace him and applaud his courage for taking responsibility for his actions; where his peers give him “high fives” and the now popular “fist bump” as they utter words of encouragement. Imagine him becoming a man with greater personal insight and compassion for others. Imagine him becoming a man aware of his greater purpose; a man with a vision. Imagine.

That is exactly what Freedom Fighter and lifelong activist and organizer, Angela Davis is asking us to do in her new book, “The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues.” It is what she asked all of us on March 1st at Oakland’s Marcus Book Store as the walls bulged to capacity with young and old, Black and white, as we sat, crouched or stood to hear her call to Imagine a world without a thriving prison industrial complex.

I have to admit that before reading her book I had never thought about a world without prisons. In my lifetime, that’s the only answer I’d ever seen offered to correct wrongs or punish folks for “wrong doing.” What I’ve observed, as I’m sure many of you reading this have observed, is that imprisoning millions (America – “land of the free, home of the brave” has over 2 million people locked up right now and that doesn’t count the millions more on parole or probation!) isn’t making a difference in crime rates or leading our homes and communities to peace and productivity. Something else must be going on. Something that mass incarceration isn’t fixing.

I don’t know what we do with those that commit heinous crimes and acts of violence. There are people who aren’t prepared or equipped to live beside the rest of us. But now I am challenging what seems to be America’s answer – prison all the time, for everything…especially if you’re Black or brown or poor.

As a woman of color, the proliferation of incarceration in our communities is personal. I’m weary of seeing people who look like me (and the men I love, since that’s the majority of people in prison) cuffed and wearing orange jumpsuits. Children who ought to be participating in spelling bees or getting ready for their first dance, chained and facing prison sentences that will keep them locked away for decades, saddens me in a way I can’t express with words.

If you find yourself weary, worried, frustrated, dismayed, or angry by this, too, Ms. Davis is offering another option….Imagine.

One Response to “Imagine”

  1. dwillwrite Says:

    Love, love, love this. A great post. Yes, imagine.

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