Visions of abolition: from critical resistance to a new way of life

 Watch the video and answer the following questions.

  1. The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is read aloud early on in the film, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. However, as highlighted in the film, what is the exception that is written into the Amendment?
  2. At around 10 minutes into the film, Ruth Wilson Gilmore references California’s massive project of prison expansion, which as she notes, a state analyst called the largest prison-building initiative “in the history of the world.” Gilmore goes on to explain why she called a book she wrote about that prison boom, “Golden Gulag”. What explanation does she give regarding the title of her book? 
  3. What organization did Susan Burton found, and what specifically stood out to you the most about the way Burton is portrayed and the way her story is shared in the film? 
  4. What does Ruth Wilson Gilmore claim (around 27:10), based on what research seems to suggest, about communities that have had more people sent off to prison as contrasted with communities that have had fewer members incarcerated? 
  5. At the beginning of Part II of the documentary, what does Angela Davis claim about prison reform – that is, why does she consider it problematic? What does she offer as an alternative to reform?  
  6. A little less than an hour into the film, Angela Davis says that in this country “we’ve come to think about ____________________ as the only possible response when one is the target of wrongdoing,” and she adds that “when something bad is done to us, our first response is _______________________________________________.” For this item, you need to listen to what Davis said and fill in the blanks above using the words she used. 
  7. At around 1:15:20 into the film, Davis suggests that doing work focused on prison issues compels us to seriously grapple with issues regarding intimate violence and violence against children. What does Davis say in that part of the interview about incarceration and abdicating our responsibility?  
  8. At some point in the film, Davis says the following: “I always consider education as the first alternative to imprisonment. If we had a better educational system — and I’m not just talking about access to education; I’m talking about an educational system that teaches young people how to value knowledge, and how to live in that sphere where they cultivate the mind and how to take pleasure in that — then most of the people who are in prison would not be there today.” As a university student, what role do you think education plays – and what role could it play – in relation to incarceration and abolition?
  9. What techniques and strategies did the director and other contributors to this documentary use, and what filmmaking choices did they make, in their attempt to provide viewers a vision (or visions) of abolition?
  10. What could the director and other contributors to the film have done differently if they were trying to offer a different vision (or different visions) of incarceration?
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