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Articles by James Kilgore

Cages Without Bars Are Widening the Net: The Explosion of Electronic Monitoring


by James Kilgore and Brian Dolinar

Electronic monitoring (EM) is rapidly expanding throughout the criminal legal system. COVID-19 is partly responsible for this. The pandemic precipitated jailers’ use of monitors to reduce the number of people in overcrowded cells. In Harris County, Texas alone, the number of people on ...

To End Mass Incarceration, We Need to Bust the Myths That Prop It Up

An interview with Victoria Law

by James Kilgore,

One of the most pervasive myths about incarceration is that it makes a society safer. Now, a leading journalist who focuses on the criminal legal system has taken on that question in her new book.

Victoria Law is a prolific reporter ...

Imagining a World Without Prisons

 By James KilgoreTruthout | Op-Ed

This story is the seventh in Truthout's "Visions of 2018" series, in which activist leaders answer the question: "What would you like to see created, built, imagined or begun this year?" Each piece will focus on a bold idea for transformation, to ...

After Prisons: A Supervisory State?

After Prison? Freedom, Decarceration and Justice Disinvesment

By William G. Martin and Joshua Price (eds.)

Lexington 2016

Reviewed by James Kilgore, Daily Kos

After Prisons? is a remarkable book for several reasons.  First of all, it remains strong from start to finish.  Every chapter offers disciplined research and fresh ideas. Second, ...

Follow the Money: Invisible Investors Seek Big Bucks in Mass Incarceration

by James Kilgore and Brian Dolinar, Truthout

When authorities booked Richard Murphy into the jail in Monterey, California on January 18, 2013, the war veteran likely never envisioned ending up being back in court months later, not to face criminal charges, but to expose the abuse he would suffer at ...

Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood

By James Kilgore, Truthout

Jails admit nearly 12 million people every year. Yet they are largely off the radar of critics of mass incarceration. However, as a new report by Vera Institute and actions by activists around the country demonstrate, jails matter.

In February 2015, the MacArthur Foundation launched a $75 million grant initiative to support counties and cities in developing strategies to reduce jail populations. Julia Stasch, MacArthur’s president, noted that “jails are where our nation’s incarceration problem begins [and] too often serve as warehouses for those too poor to post bail, nonviolent offenders, or people with mental illness.” The MacArthur initiative represents a belated awakening to the reality that jails are the local face of mass incarceration and, in many places, the New Jim Crow.

To date, popular knowledge about jails has remained a compendium of scenes from “Cops,” MSNBC’s “Lockup” or the pics circulated by on their website and their widely-distributed magazine. But the critical lens is widening. Even small Midwestern towns are taking action.

On February 23, 2015, the city council of Urbana, Illinois passed a resolution condemning mass incarceration. The resolution went on to urge their county board, currently debating a much contested $32 million jail proposal, to ...

Private Prisons: Just Bit Players in Mass Incarceration

Private Prisons: Just Bit Players in Mass Incarceration

by James Kilgore             

Copyright, This article was originally published on October 19, 2015; reprinted with permission.

Social justice activists love to hate private prisons. The loathing is easy to justify. Making profit by locking people up and keeping them there is repulsive. Moreover, major private prison operators like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have a history of tragedy and ruthless behavior. From the early days of CCA when cofounder Tom Beasley described marketing prisons as "just like ... selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers" to more recent revelations of locking up preschoolers, private prisons have plumbed the depths of immorality. And they have thrown money at the project, spending millions on lobbying for harsher sentencing laws to secure their bottom lines, even bribing judges to incarcerate juveniles.

Since 2000, private prison companies have staked out the war on immigrants as their market niche, working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote the passage of harsh anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, Alabama and other states to corral more "customers" for their growing stable of detention centers. Unless you are a shareholder, there is little to ...

Corporations You’ve Never Heard of are Making Millions from Mass Incarceration

By James Kilgore, Truthout

Likely the most well-known prison profiteers in the United States are the Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. Between them, these two firms pulled in about $3.3 billion last year running scores of private prisons and immigration detention centers.

However, these two firms are ...

Mental Illness and Jails, Race is Left out of the Equation

Mental Illness and Jails, Race is Left out of the Equation

By James Kilgore, Truthout

In 1843, social justice crusader Dorothea Dix went before the Massachusetts Legislature with the intention of addressing an acute problem of the day: the incarceration of people with mental illness. Her declaration to the ...

The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

by James Kilgore

Over the last four years, “we have turned the corner” has become the dominant narrative on mass incarceration. The basis for this optimism appeared sound. From 2009-2012, total prisoner numbers were down nationally for the first time since the late 1970s, with ...