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Prison-Industrial Complex Conferences Are Spreading the Word

Awareness of the devastatingly negative impact of the politically driven criminal justice system on American society continues to grow. On the week-end of April 10th, there were two conferences in the U. S. dedicated to exposing its normally hidden aspects to the light of publicity and public scrutiny.

One of these was the "From Segregation to Incarceration" conference at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Angela Davis was the featured speaker and a summary of the conference was written by syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson and printed in newspapers nationwide.

The other was "Open To The Truth: A Conference Against the Prison- Industrial Complex" at Portland State University (PSU) in Portland, Oregon. Mumia Abu Jamal's image was highly visible at the conference since he has become the national symbol of the institutionalized injustice that pervades all aspects of the aptly named criminal justice system.

There was no speaker at PSU with the stature of Angela Davis, but there were more than two dozen workshops given by people from Oregon, Washington, and California covering many different areas of the law enforcement juggernaut that is making its presence felt in ever more aspects of American society One of these workshops that I moderated was entitled: The Great Plague. It dealt with the "justice" system's pervasive mistreatment and victimization of the innocent by falsely prosecuting, convicting, imprisoning, and even executing them.

While attendance at the Portland conference was in the hundreds and not the thousands who were attracted to the Critical Resistance Conference at UC Berkeley in October, 1998, it was still successful. Posters were plastered around the PSU campus and there were announcements in the local media exposing the general public to the idea that something as anti-democratic as the prison-industrial complex not only exists, but is becoming as economically entrenched and politically influential over domestic policies as the military-industrial complex is over U. S. foreign policies.

Public awareness of the prisonindustrial complex is now in the "baby step" stage. Which makes the increasingly common references in newspapers and magazines to both it and the institutionalized injustices ingrained in the legal process that ensures it is fed with the quantity of human bodies it needs to function all the more impressive.

The gathering of people at conferences around the country where they can share information and network is an invaluable part of the consciousness raising process that is already having a small, but nevertheless noticeable impact.

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