(This article is part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Defund Universities series. Previous articles include David Horowitz’s De-Fund the Universities and America’s Crisis is the Universities. )
We think of crime as emanating from the poor and the underprivileged, but the country’s crime wave actually has its roots in the work of academics who taught at prestigious universities.
The pro-crime movement that originated in the 1960s and has since swept America began in part with an article by Communist leader and agitator Angela Davis: ‘Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition’. Davis, a UCLA academic, was catapulted to national prominence during her trial for supplying firearms to terrorist Jonathan Jackson, who used them to murder a California judge presiding over the homicide trial of his criminal brother George, who later died after slitting the throats of three guards while attempting to escape from San Quentin. There are shrines devoted to Davis at prominent schools like University of California – Santa Cruz.
Angela Davis began her seminal incitement by quoting Michel Foucault: a French academic with the Collège de France. Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’, which Davis described as “arguably the most influential text in contemporary studies of the prison system” remains widely studied on college campuses along with Davis’ racist perspective that incorporated the Black Panther’s threat to “Off the Pigs” (Police) that has long since entered politics and the wider culture in the form of police assassinations, demonizations and defunding, and other allied efforts to eliminate prisons, prosecutions and the justice system.
The two activist academics were not really interested in crime and the penal system as a field of research. They were bent on fomenting a civil war that would put the Left in power.
Foucault, a Marxist-trained philosopher, had been a co-founder of the Prison Information Group to support the Maoists imprisoned over the radical violence in France in 1968. Foucault had credited the riots with stimulating his interest in “the direction of penal theory”.
Angela Davis had bought guns to facilitate a murderous terrorist attack on a Marin County courthouse by the Black Panthers. The attack roughly coincided with Foucault’s visit to the United States during which he “investigated” the American prison system and the subsequent death of George Jackson: the Panther leader whom the Marin County attackers hoped to free.
Police defunding and the pro-crime movement came directly out of the Marxist and Panther playbook and the universities who embraced their call to revolution. (Huey Newton, the leader of the Panthers, and a violent killer and rapist received a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz, in a program headed by Angela Davis. Newton was in the program to arm himself intellectually for the violent reckoning with American capitalism he had dedicated himself to.)
The French Maoists and Black Panthers bonded by their shared experiences of being locked up for their crimes came to see prisons as “not only Marxist universities, but training camps” for revolution, and criminals like themselves as its vanguard. Academic radicals developed Marxist ideas into an ideology before launching their violent nihilism into the popular mainstream.
The violence of the Black Lives Matter riots, founded by “trained Marxists” who viewed Davis as a revolutionary icon, and the even more catastrophic wave of death spurred on by following their lead — defunding police, ending prosecutions and freeing criminals — cost thousands of lives. Those deaths, like the movement that inflicted them, were massively supported by the college students who had been indoctrinated by the Marxist left in the classrooms of American universities.
In her Communist dogmas and support for domestic terrorism, Davis is not alone. Other former leftist terrorists have occupied influential academic positions including Bill Ayers and Susan Rosenberg: two Weather Underground bombers. Ayers taught at Columbia Teachers’ College, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, he has boasted that he set bombs in the Pentagon, and has promoted defunding the police. Susan Rosenberg, who was released after Bill Clinton commuted her sentence, was offered a position at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-chaired the fiscal sponsor of Black Lives Matter and its Marxist leaders.
Eric Adams, and whose students go on to serve in the FBI, the NYPD, and the Secret Service, John Jay College, a formerly prestigious institution whose alumni include New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and whose students go on to serve in the FBI, the NYPD, and the Secret Service, provided a place for a domestic terrorist who was arrested in possession of 740 pounds of TNT and a list of military and government buildings she was intending to bomb.
Rosenberg describes herself as an “anti-prison activist” and John Jay College has endorsed its own version of police defunding. The public college partners on fellowships with the Vera Justice Institute which is committed to “ending mass incarceration”. Students have been asked to envision the university in terms of Foucault’s critiques of the prison system.
Within the span of two generations, future law enforcement personnel were being indoctrinated with the teachings of Marxist domestic terrorists and their political allies. The situation at John Jay is emblematic of what has happened to criminology departments across the country.
The country’s top criminology departments, like those at the University of Maryland, UC-Irvine and Rutgers, begin with the premise that the criminal justice system is racially biased.
The University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice has its Racial Democracy Crime and Justice Network Small Grants Program, UC-Irvine’s Criminology program has a graduate emphasis on “Race and Justice Studies”, while Rutgers’ School of Criminal Justice takes part in the university’s Fellows in Racial Justice program. One of those fellows brags that being a “convicted felon” who spent time in maximum security prison allows him to “empathize with the downtrodden” and led to his “fervent commitment to activism”.
That’s the state of criminology at universities, but the general state of universities is even worse. Black studies programs offer a prison abolition syllabus (which predictably includes both Foucault and Davis) tying together faculty from Harvard and Wesleyan among others. Rutgers, Notre Dame, the University of Texas, the University of Colorado, among many others, offer Black Lives Matter courses, whose villains are invariably white people and cops.
BLM protests were widely backed by 8 out of 10 college students. Many of the protests were organized on campuses and involved faculty like Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM’s Los Angeles chapter, who has made a bid to take over the group. Abdullah, the granddaughter of a prominent German Marxist, is a black studies professor at California State University.
The fundamental message of Foucault and Davis, refracted through BLM, was broadcast through academia. The policies, police defunding, prison releases and decriminalization, and the violent riots, helped unleash an unprecedented crime wave which brought to an end the lives of thousands of people, as it happens mainly black and poor. The ideas originally promoted by radicals in the 70s have led to a generation of progressive pro-crime DAs, many backed by George Soros’s millions. They include Manhattan’s Alvin Bragg, former San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin – whose parents are convicted Marxist terrorists, Los Angeles’ George Gascon and Philly’s Larry Krasner, and Biden’s US Attorney in D.C., Michael Graves, who declined to prosecute in 67% of cases brought to him. Collectively, and with the backing of the Democrat Party, they have collectively dismantled the criminal justice system from within.
As a result of BLM and pro-crime policies, around 5,000 more people were murdered in 2020. And the rate of black people being murdered increased more than any other group. The CDC’s research showed that, “in 2020, one out of every 1,000 young Black males (15–34) was shot and killed.” Murder is the leading cause of death for black men from 20 to 44 years old.
All of this can be traced back to academia which promoted the idea that white people are racist oppressors and that the best way to fix that is to replace the police and the criminal justice system with social workers and apologies.
Restorative Justice, which proposes to replace crime and punishment with forgiveness for the perpetrator, originated in part from Goshen College in Indiana which now offers both a major and a minor in letting criminals go unpunished. Mariame Kaba, the contemporary godmother of police defunding, teaches at Barnard University. Kaba made her views plain in an op-ed titled, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.” The world that Kaba would make is laid out on her site, ‘Transform Harm’, which is funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. It features a sociologist proposing that rapists write apology letters and a professor of gender studies claiming that sending Larry Nassar, who had sexually abused some 250 girls, to prison embodies “political whiteness”.
Even in the face of growing crime and violence, academia continues to double down on a pro-crime program initially conceived in support of Marxist terrorists, but which has become a general program of supporting and enabling criminals across society.
To fight crime, we must lock up criminals, but we must also end the taxpayer funding of pro-crime universities, departments and programs. While most criminals eventually face consequences for the robberies, rapes and murders that they commit, the academics who enable them never do.
Leftists who support criminals have the right to their views, but taxpayers should not be forced to fund them, and universities which make them central to their curriculum should be put out of business. Victims of crime are being taxed to fund the pro-crime academics whose ideas led to them being assaulted. To break the cycle of pro-crime policies, we have to defund universities.