Book Review: Understanding Mass Incarceration

Understanding Mass Incarceration:  A People’s Guide To The Key Civil Rights Struggle Of Our Time, by James Kilgore


I have yet to read a single book that was labeled as a “people’s guide” or a “people’s history” that was ever anything other than leftist Maoist refuse.  This book is no different.  The author himself is an ex-con and a leftist, and of course he is horribly biased.  He is so biased that he makes ordinary garden variety moderate Republicans seem like the second coming of antebellum fire-eating slaveowners or racist Jim Crow supporters, and fills this book with photos of various misguided leftist protesters and acts as if these various leftists are some kind of unstoppable mass movement that will end America’s system of imprisonment which, admittedly, has a disproportionately heavy hand on certain aspects of our criminal class (which the author is a fitting representative of in several respects) while being correspondingly gentle with other parts of it.  Yet the author does not argue for justice in terms of how laws are dealt with, which would be an appropriate response, but rather seeks to overturn the existing system in favor of one which would be biased towards the author and others of his ilk, which is not an idiot parade I have any intention of joining.

This book is about 200 pages long and is divided into five parts.  After a short introduction where the author whines about the hostility that those right-of-center have shown to him (which he probably has deserved if this book is a representative sample of his rhetoric and approach), the author writes three chapters on the basics of mass incarceration (I), including a snapshot of the system (1), how popular support was obtained for enlarging the prison system (2), and the rise of mass incarceration (3) as a means of getting rid of the criminal class for good.  After that there are five chapters that show some of the faces of tough on crime (II), namely the war on drugs (4), hostility to illegal immigration (5), the death of the ideal of rehabilitation (6), jail as the local face of mass incarceration (7), and the school-to-prison pipeline (8).  After that there is a suitably intersectionist approach to gender (III) with a look at the folks left behind (9) and women’s prisons (10).  There are chapters on private enterprise’s relationship with prison (IV), such as private prisons (11), and the profit some make off of prison (12).  Finally, the book ends with the author’s hope of ending mass incarceration (V), namely changing a mind-set about crime (13) as well as the author’s desire to organize to end mass imprisonment (14).

Ultimately, the author and I have some major disagreements when it comes to crime and punishment, although admittedly I am no particular fan of prison as a solution to crime, since my beliefs are more in line with biblical ideals of restitution and ultimate reconciliation where debts are paid not to society but to victims and their families and where once the debt is paid the offender has the chance to be restored to full freedom without having the past weigh around his (or her) neck like a millstone.  Yet the author is not content merely to seek reconciliation for those who have done crime and paid time, but rather shows a high degree of resentment and hostility to any who would desire to protect society as much as possible from those who show a hostility to the rule of law, whether they do not respect international borders or legal ones.  And it is that which accounts for my own intense hostility to this book as a whole, in that the author could have made a great case had he done so in a mild and balanced fashion, but instead all he has to offer is militant leftism.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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