We all know that orange is the new black and mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow, but how much do we actually know about the structure, goals, and impact of our criminal justice system? Understanding Mass Incarceration offers the first comprehensive overview of the incarceration apparatus put in place by the world's largest jailer: the United States.
Drawing on a growing body of academic and professional work, Understanding Mass Incarceration describes in plain English the many competing theories of criminal justice—from rehabilitation to retribution, from restorative justice to justice reinvestment. In a lively and accessible style, author James Kilgore illuminates the difference between prisons and jails, probation and parole, laying out key concepts and policies such as the War on Drugs, broken windows policing, three-strikes sentencing, the school-to-prison pipeline, recidivism, and prison privatization. Informed by the crucial lenses of race and gender, he addresses issues typically omitted from the discussion: the rapidly increasing incarceration of women, Latinos, and transgender people; the growing imprisonment of immigrants; and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on communities.
Both field guide and primer, Understanding Mass Incarceration will be an essential resource for those engaged in criminal justice activism as well as those new to the subject.
This important polemic from Kilgore (We Are All Zimbabweans Now) presents a grim picture of the U.S. criminal justice system. It may come as no surprise that prisons and jails are rife with abuses of power and funds, lack of resources, and corruption. That African-Americans, Latinos, and transgender people are disproportionately imprisoned is well known. What transforms these social injustices into what Kilgore presents as a national disgrace is the unprecedented growth in the incarcerated population over the past 40 years: "To return to incarceration levels of the 1970s would require a decrease in prison and jail populations of about 1.5 million." With stunning statistics and heartbreaking stories, the book reveals how the system prevents individuals and their families from moving beyond incarceration: former prisoners are saddled with overwhelming debt from court fines and fees; a bank employee is fired after a background check uncovered a shoplifting conviction from four decades before; guards abused boys imprisoned in a private juvenile facility. Finally, the book recommends that we reconsider how our penal system treats such matters as immigration, drug use, mental illness, disability, and gender identification. The author makes a powerful call to reverse a cycle in which more people serve longer sentences with fewer opportunities to return to society.