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James Kilgore has assembled a comprehensive look at America's misguided policies that currently have 2.5 million people behind bars in his new book, Understanding Mass Incarceration.Subtitled "A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time", Kilgore's book is highly accessible and rich with the details of every aspect of our prison system, from immigration lockups to county jails, state prisons and the federal penal system.
We open with discussion of the recent change in the political climate that has led the Pope and President Obama to visit prisons, and bipartisan support for dismantling many draconian policies that produced a huge jump in the prison population, from the War-on-some-drugs to the criminalization of poverty.
Kilgore has served time in federal prisons and the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. He notes that when former Gov. Schwarzenegger added "rehabilitation" to the department's name, the only change was in the logo on prison uniforms, as Arnold also cut funding for inmate programs that might lead to rehabilitation. We also talk about the ongoing segregation in prisons, especially in California, and the plight of poor people accused of crimes, who languish in jail awaiting trial.
We talk about the challenge faced by released prisoners, and a San Francisco company that hires ex-cons and other at-risk people.
Near the end of the interview, we explain Kilgore's history and involvement with a notorious group in the 1970's that led to 27 years on the lam, and a plea deal with prison term when he resurfaced. We also discuss recent efforts to terminate his employment at the University of Illinois due to his prison record. Find out more at his website.