[Howard Zinn raw #47: Zinn speaks about incarceration and justice]

Howard Zinn speaks on prisons at Northeastern University in Boston.

0:03Copy video clip URL Footage of Howard Zinn speaking with audience members and finding his seat in a crowded lecture hall (no sound until 2:30).

3:00Copy video clip URL An acoustic band plays a group of performers into the lecture hall. Actors perform a spoken word theater piece about policing, prisons, and mass incarceration. The play concludes and the audience applauds.

10:36Copy video clip URL Shots of several speakers and performers at the meeting, including personal testimony, poetry, prose, hip-hop, and political education.

17:11Copy video clip URL Zinn chats with the author of the theater piece about play-writing.

20:16Copy video clip URL Zinn takes the podium to talk about prisons. He recounts an anecdote about visiting his associate in prison. He says that A People’s History of the United States became a favorite among prisoners.

25:25Copy video clip URL Zinn says it’s important to recognize that what we call the justice system isn’t separate from society, but rather a reflection of society. “Most of the people in prison are not people who have committed mad, violent crimes. Most of the people in prison are people who have engaged in drugs, who dealt in drugs, who have just possessed drugs or people who have committed crimes of burglary and so on. These are people who’ve carried out in their own individual way, the premise of the system, which is ‘try to get as much for yourself as you can.’ They believe, you might say, in capitalism on a small scale. They’re doing on a very small scale what the great moguls of corporate power do on a large scale, but the people who do it on a small scale go to prison, and the people who do it on a large scale go to Tahiti.”

28:36Copy video clip URL Zinn addresses violent crime, saying that violent crimes are a reflection of a violent society. He says that it doesn’t make a difference whether international military actions are legal or illegal, because the people in power are the ones writing the laws. He says that each year, the total amount of money stolen in any one year adds up to $4 billion, while corporate fraud accounts for $200 billion stolen each year.

31:53Copy video clip URL Zinn borrows from Dostoevsky, who said that you could judge how civilized a nation is by going into its prisons. He talks about the everyday brutality of the U.S. prison system. He says when people talk about crime, they want to talk about small crimes, but not homelessness or hunger.

35:33Copy video clip URL Howard Zinn digresses from his remarks on prisons to announce an event somebody asked him to announce. The event is the Northeast Regional Socialist Conference sponsored by the International Socialist Organization.

36:24Copy video clip URL Zinn says that the abolition of the social conditions that produce crime is a long, difficult, and necessary goal to organize around. He talks about the importance of making prisons and prisoners visible to people in society and connecting with people in prison.

39:35Copy video clip URL Zinn concludes his speech and the audience applauds.

40:31Copy video clip URL A man starts to perform an original poem about mass incarceration and policing.

41:11Copy video clip URL Footage of Zinn and other audience members exiting the lecture hall.




  1. Beverly Hector-Smith says:

    I was hoping you would have some footage f Howard speaking on the Boston Common because my brother shared the stage that day.
    My brother, Harold R, Hector, died in 2009.

  2. Beverly Hector-Smith says:

    I was hoping you would have some footage Of Howard speaking on the Boston Common because my brother shared the stage that day.
    My brother, Harold R, Hector, died in 2009.

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