Bigger Than Incarceration: Angela Davis Talks Mass Criminalization, Mental Health and the War on Drugs

Submission Date: April 29, 2016
Attributing Author: Kristen West Savali

During a town hall organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, Davis discussed how structural violence and the dehumanization of black and brown people are deeply embedded within the fabric of society.

Earlier this month, iconic scholar, author and political activist Angela Davis joined a public conversation organized by the Drug Policy Alliance to discuss drug policy and criminal-justice discrimination in the United States, both issues of critical importance to African-American and Latino communities.

Moderated by DPA Senior Director Asha Bandele, the conversation moved beyond just the hard facts to tackle hard truths, one of which is that the so-called war on drugs is a large-scale storefront operation intended to disguise this nation’s war on black, brown and poor people, and that mass incarceration is but one strategy employed.

“In our own conversations at Drug Policy Alliance, we’ve wondered if ending mass incarceration was the right frame, or if we needed to push it deeper, if we needed to take a dive into the larger contradictions that are inherent in the question of mass criminalization,” Bandele shared at the start of the conversation. “The culture of punishment on which this nation was built … looms large in our lives today.”

Over the course of the hourlong conversation, which culminated in a question-and-answer period, Davis provided expansive and insightful responses on the need to broaden the boundaries around the ways we discuss oppression.

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