“Prison either breaks you or makes you stronger”

5 avril 2013


“Prison either breaks you or makes you stronger”
George Jackson (one of the Soledad Brothers)

On March 22, 2013, ECPM, in collaboration with Collectif Mumia and FIDH, was honoured to welcome Angela Davis during her visit to Paris as a film dedicated to her life was being released here*. We took this opportunity to organize a debate with other French organizations. On that occasion, all French actors active in the fields of the abolition of the death penalty, prisons, criminal justice and human rights in general had a chance to meet this great woman who left her mark in history.

She is the symbol of many struggles they took part in. Judging by the thousands of phone calls and emails we received in relation to the event, she is as popular as ever in France. Hence this assurance to the faithful readers of this newsletter: we should be able to publish a full feature including a video recording of the debate in an upcoming issue of the Abolition letter.

Angela Davis has not only been a famous civil rights activist in the US, close to the Black Panther Party, or a brilliant philosophy teacher. She was also a potential death row inmate for 22 months, while she faced capital charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy after a prison break attempt involving three inmates. The attempt to free the so-called Soledad Brothers resulted in the death of a Californian judge in 1970.

Since then, she has opposed the death penalty everywhere she could. She was already with ECPM as we organized the 1st World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Strasbourg in 2001. Her voice is unique and significant in the debate on alternatives to the death penalty. Abolition of death penalty is making constant progress in the US (as shown in this issue’s main feature), but criminal justice is becoming more and more repressive and the death penalty is nearly always replaced with life in prison without parole. This is what Angela calls “a second death penalty”!

Our strategy should target the abolition of the death penalty and the issue of life or very long prison sentences separately, but in parallel. This topic will be discussed at a dedicated round table on alternative sanctions at the 5th World Congress Against the Death Penalty. We are expecting you in Madrid between June 12-15 to debate these issues.

Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan
Executive director, ECPM

*Free Anglea and all political prisoners, by Shola Lynch, released in France on April 3, 2013.