Writings by twentieth-century imprisoned authors examining confinement, enslavement, and political organizing in prison.
“If you think modern slavery in the United States is a thing of the past, then The New Abolitionists ought to be mandatory reading. Joy James has done an incredible service by bringing together key writings by prison intellectuals over the past half century. The pieces she selected are not just descriptive but prescriptive: the book is chock-full of manifestoes, strategies, political analyses, and visions of a world free of incarceration. Like the slave narratives of 150 years ago, these writings demand action.” Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
This collection of essays and interviews provides a frank look at the nature and purposes of prisons in the United States from the perspective of the prisoners. Written by Native American, African American, Latino, Asian, and European American prisoners, the book examines captivity and democracy, the racial “other,” gender and violence, and the stigma of a suspect humanity. Contributors include those incarcerated for social and political acts, such as conscientious objection, antiwar activism, black liberation, and gang activities. Among those interviewed are Philip Berrigan, Marilyn Buck, Angela Y. Davis, George Jackson, and Laura Whitehorn.
“Joy James has carved out a very important area of investigation and analysisthe world of the ‘prison writers,’ the organic intellectuals of the incarceration factories. She has taken the insights from several of her books on intellectual production and brought them to bear on that one area of sociological study that tends to not listen to its subjects: prisons. The project, in and of itself, is spectacular, and I applaud it.
“The book offers us a theoretical analysis of the word ‘abolition’ in a much wider frame than prisons themselves. Both James’s introduction and the words of the prison intellectuals tell us that they are not so much concerned only with the dismantling of the incarceration factories, but that they also see these holding pens as nodal points in the state of disenfranchisement that is the modern world.” Vijay Prashad, author of The Karma of Brown Folk
Contributors include Mumia Abu-Jamal, Holley Cantine, Angela Y. Davis, Susie Day, Leslie DiBenedetto, Bill Dunne, Antonio Fernandez (King Tone), Larvester Gaither, David Gilbert, Amy Goodman, Joy James, Heike Kleffner, Drew Leder, Raymond Luc Levasseur, Ed Mead, Jalil Muntaqim, Prince Imari A. Obadele (Shemuel ben-Yahweh), Imari Abubakari Obadele I, Bernard Phillips, Dachine Rainer, Little Rock Reed, Dylan Rodríguez, Susan Rosenberg, Tiyo Attallah Salah-El, Jeremy Scahill, Assata Shakur, Paul St. John, Karen Wald, and Yaki (James Sayles).
Interviewees include Charles Baxter, Alan Berkman, Philip Berrigan, Wayne Brown, Marilyn Buck, Tony Chatman-Bey, Angela Y. Davis, George Jackson, Geronimo ji Jaga (Elmer Pratt), H. B. Johnson Jr., Mark Medley, Viet Mike Ngo, Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham), Donald Thompson, Selvyn Tillett, Laura Whitehorn, and John Woodland Jr.
Joy James is the John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of Humanities and College Professor in Political Science at Williams College. She is the author of Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender, and Race in U.S. Culture, and her edited works on incarceration and human rights include States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons and Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion.
Table of Contents
Folsom, August 11th: A Question of Races
Joy James Democracy and Captivity
Part I: Penal Democracy
1. Dachine Rainer and Holley Cantine Prison Etiquette
2. Bernard Phillips Notes on the Prison Community
3. Jalil Muntaqim The Criminalization of Poverty in Capitalist America (Abridged)
4. Bill Dunne Control Unit Prisons: Deceit and Folly in Modern Dungeons
5. Raymond Luc Levasseur Trouble Coming Every Day: ADXThe First Year
6. Paul St. John Behind the Mirror's Face
7. Tiyo Attallah Salah-El A Call for the Abolition of Prisons
Part II: Gendered Captivity
8. Assata Shakur Women in Prison: How We Are
9. Susan Rosenberg Women Casualties of the Drug War
10. Angela Y. Davis Reflections on the Black Woman's Role in the Community of Slaves (Abridged)
11. Prince Imari A. Obadele (Shemuel ben-Yahweh) Killers
12. Ed Mead Men Against Sexism
Part III: Revolt
13. Little Rock Reed The American Indian in the White Man's Prisons: A Story of Genocide
14. Imari Abubakari Obadele I A People's Revolt for Power and an Up-Turn in the Black Condition: An Appeal and a Challenge
15. Prince Imari A. Obadele (Shemuel ben-Yahweh) To My Baby's Children
16. Antonio Fernandez (King Tone) King Tone's Diary
17. Yaki (James Sayles) Let's "Gang-Up" on Oppression: Youth Organizations and the Struggle for Power in Oppressed Communities
18. Mumia Abu-Jamal A Life Lived, Deliberately
Part IV: Dialogues in Resistance (Interviews)
19. An Interview with Charles Baxter, Wayne Brown, Tony Chatman-Bey, H. B. Johnson Jr., Mark Medley, Donald Thompson, Selvyn Tillett, and John Woodland Jr. (with Drew Leder) Live from the Panopticon: Architecture and Power Revisited
20. An Interview with Angela Davis (with Leslie DiBenedetto) On Prisons and Prisoners
21. An Interview with George Jackson (with Karen Wald)
22. An Interview with Geronimo ji Jaga (Elmer Pratt) (with Heike Kleffner)
23. A Conversation with Viet Mike Ngo (with Dylan Rodríguez) "You Have to be Intimate with Your Despair"
24. An Interview with Marilyn Buck and Laura Whitehorn (with Susie Day) Cruel But Not UnusualThe Punishment of Women in U.S. Prisons
25. An Interview with Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) (with Larvester Gaither)
26. Alan Berkman on Prison Health Care (as told to Susie Day) Engaged in Life
27. An Interview with Philip Berrigan (with Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill) It's Too Bad the Soil Couldn't Cry Out from the Blood Shed Upon It
Appendix 1: The Attica Liberation Faction Manifesto of Demands and Anti-Depression Platform