Why Every Prison Abolitionist Should Know About Black August

Informative article is on the history, origin, and meaning of Black August, an annual month-long August event in the United States vitally important to prison reformists, abolitionists, and others.

For prison abolitionists, Black August serves as an important reminder of the state's power to quell resistance, including the power to control when and how we mourn our loved ones who have died at the hands of law enforcement or in jails and prisons (or from medical neglect in jails and prisons). For those who are not familiar with it, Black August was created by prisoners in California's San Quentin State Prison in 1971 to draw attention to the lives lost from the conditions they faced inside.

Why A Month?

On its surface, it's a simple question. Why a month? And though some may think that naming an annual period of prison activism after black is redundant, given that prisons are racist and disproportionately affect people of color, there is real meaning in doing so. In fact, much like Malcolm X once said about his name: I didn't choose my name. My name chose me. The same can be said for Black August. It was chosen by prisoners and prison abolitionists who recognized that prisons were built on racism and white supremacy, but also saw how they could be abolished if everyone worked together to end them. This is why every prison abolitionist should know about Black August.

An Argument Against Prison Reform

Some prison reformists argue that a lot of prisons are simply too expensive to maintain, and it's in everyone's best interest if we just eliminate prisons altogether. This is an argument some disagree with, for many reasons. First off, prisons provide jobs for many people; they also allow prisoners to be rehabilitated so they can reenter society as productive citizens. Finally, prison reformists say that prisons only make up 5% of our criminal justice system-and thus only 5% of our spending on criminal justice-but some would argue that these reforms don't even address what is wrong with our criminal justice system, as noted by one prisoner living under these horrific conditions, "a tree that grows up in prison ain't gonna have many leaves." See "Black August Through the Eyes of Incarcerated Artist Donald 'C-Note' Hooker."

There Is No Necessary Relationship Between Incarceration Rates And Criminal Activity

Incarceration rates around North America, and particularly in Canada, have been increasing steadily. Although some people believe that these increasing incarceration rates will reduce criminal activity, there is no necessary relationship between incarceration rates and criminal activity. If anything, higher incarceration rates may actually lead to an increase in criminal activity by creating a prison culture characterized by violence and other gang-related activities that may encourage people to commit crimes when they get out of prison as opposed to discouraging them from committing crimes in the first place. Further, many who are imprisoned are likely not guilty of any real crime but are being imprisoned because they do not have access to adequate legal counsel or otherwise cannot navigate our flawed justice system effectively. Many people who could be rehabilitated through community support or mental health services remain incarcerated because such programs are simply unavailable or too expensive for those with little income.

What Happens If We Don't Solve The Problem Of Mass Incarceration?

All things considered, it's not a matter of if we'll have to face prison reform or prisoner-related issues, but when. What's more is that mass incarceration isn't just a problem here in America, it's a worldwide issue. Whether you agree with our prison systems or not (hopefully you don't), there is definitely work to be done. If you want to see prison reform happen, now is as good a time as any. Here are some steps you can take:

It's important to realize that while no one person can make all these changes on their own, everyone has something they can do-no matter how small-to help make change happen. It all starts with one person and then another and another until eventually, real change happens.

What Are Some Ways To Solve The Problem Of Mass Incarceration?

In order to solve problems like mass incarceration, we must first understand how they were created. The reasons for mass incarceration are diverse and numerous, but there are some common themes in terms of who is responsible. For example, a prison reformist would point out that anti-drug laws have been overwhelmingly enforced in poor communities with majority black or brown populations. Another perspective would be that prison reform begins at home-if your country has private prisons, then you should encourage companies to divest from them immediately! If you can't afford to, ask family members or friends if they can spare any money to help pay off student loans. With any luck, it won't take long before we end up living in a world where people aren't sent away for lengthy sentences simply because they don't have enough money.