Troy Davis! Stop the Prison Industrial Complex!
by Billy Wharton, co-chair Socialist Party USA & Erik Toren,
convener, People of Color Commission
Saving the life of Troy Davis has become a rallying point
for anti-death penalty activists. Rallies, teach-ins and petitions have
been organized throughout the US to stop the state of Georgia from
carrying out the death penalty. Despite this grassroots campaign, a
Federal judge recently rejected Davis’ petition for a new trial dealing
a severe blow to efforts to secure his freedom.
Davis has been on Georgia’s death row since being convicted of murder
in 1991. There was no physical evidence in his case. His conviction
rested entirely on the testimony of nine witnesses. In the time since
the trial, seven of the nine have reversed or contradicted their court
testimony, claiming that the police coerced them or used poor
investigative techniques. The petition rejection will prevent these
witnesses from speaking the truth in court and will put Davis back on
road to execution.
A broad movement has developed around Davis’ case. It has brought
together big-name politicians, religious figures and human rights
organizations. More importantly, thousands of young African-Americans
have organized and participated in demonstrations. Many have put on
t-shirts with the poignant message, “I am Troy Davis.”
Davis’ case is about more than the death penalty. It’s about a criminal
justice system designed to criminalize and warehouse poor and working
class people. African-Americans face heavy discrimination in all parts
of this system – from street level policing to the prison cells of
death row. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population
and 14% of monthly drug users, they are 37% of the people arrested for
drug offenses. On average, African-Americans face sentences that are
10% longer than whites. And, most gruesome of all, the chance of a
black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three.
Capitalism needs this racial oppression to maintain a system based on
the exploitation of the labor of millions and to protect the wealth and
privileges of the elite. As a result, every day, people in our
communities are denied the right to necessary things such as a good job
that would allow them to be productive members of society. Some are
forced into the low-wage service sector while others face a prison cell
where they will likely work a sub-minimum-wage prison job.
As socialists, we support abolishing the death penalty. We also believe
that the unjust persecution of Troy Davis calls for more than this. We
join with other groups in the prison abolition movement such as
Critical Resistance, in calling for an immediate end to the expansion
of the prison industrial complex. Criminalizing and caging human beings
will not make our communities safer or improve our quality of life. We
believe that a democratic socialist society that guarantees people the
right to work, to housing, to healthcare and to full civil rights is a
viable alternative to the incarceration methods of late capitalism.
Troy Davis has languished for nearly two decades in Georgia jails. Now
is the time to join with others to demand his freedom. And, in doing
so, we call for the freedom of all the unjustly imprisoned and for a
society that recognizes the humanity of all in order to improve the
lives of all. We call this idea socialism.
Free Troy Davis!
Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex!
End the Racist Death Penalty!
Read more about the Socialist Party USA’s position on the criminal