The Societal Problems That Sit On The Back Burner: Prison Funding and Reform

by: Ryan Ressemann

Angela Y. Davis’s speech delivered to the Center for the Study of Race, “Feminism and Abolition: Theories and Practices for the Twenty-First Century,” delves into a topic often put on the back burner of mainstream societal topics. Davis highlights how penitentiaries operate often emulate the profound disparities between men and women in the real world. Davis serves as a megaphone for a small percentage of a population with their voices suppressed by 12 inches of concrete with hopes that these problems will be taken off of the back burner and put in the faces of people who can make substantial change.  

On the first few pages of her speech, Davis mentions the names of many people, mostly women, who have been wronged by the “underlying agenda” the FBI and US Government possesses. She uses these names to serve as a microcosm to highlight the absence of equality with the criminal society and the lack of official attention the prison system receives. Something I mentioned in class is the problems that Davis brings up often come down to a lack of adequate funding. On the surface, they show the urgent need for reform, but looking deeper into them, I realized that not only do prisons need substantial reform, but in order to do that, they need funding from the government. Funding that they currently are not getting. 

Nevertheless, it does not look like this will happen for some time as prison reform is often put in the back of the line due to topics that gather a larger discourse. I believe the reason for that is due to how little of a percentage of the population it affects compared to other topics like taxes or health care costs. Even though Davis’s speech can be seen as contentious, I still see many key takeaways. Davis’s speech shows that people like her help give the topic of prison reform, more specifically female prison reform, a platform that can help them be put on the front burner of political discussion.

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