Understanding E-Carceration

Electronic Monitoring, the Surveillance State, and the Future of Mass Incarceration

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Pub Date 18 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 18 Jan 2022

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A riveting primer on the growing trend of surveillance, monitoring, and control that is extending our prison system beyond physical walls and into a dark future—by the prize-winning author of Understanding Mass Incarceration

“James Kilgore is one of my favorite commentators regarding the phenomenon of mass incarceration and the necessity of pursuing truly transformative change.” —Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

In the last decade, as the critique of mass incarceration has grown more powerful, many reformers have embraced changes that release people from prisons and jails. As educator, author, and activist James Kilgore brilliantly shows, these rapidly spreading reforms largely fall under the heading of “e-carceration”—a range of punitive technological interventions, from ankle monitors to facial recognition apps, that deprive people of their liberty, all in the name of ending mass incarceration.

E-carceration can block people’s access to employment, housing, healthcare, and even the chance to spend time with loved ones. Many of these technologies gather data that lands in corporate and government databases and may lead to further punishment or the marketing of their data to Big Tech.

This riveting primer on the world of techno-punishment comes from the author of the National Book Award–winning Understanding Mass Incarceration. Himself a survivor of prison and e-carceration, Kilgore captures the breadth and complexity of these technologies and offers inspiring ideas on how to resist.

A riveting primer on the growing trend of surveillance, monitoring, and control that is extending our prison system beyond physical walls and into a dark future—by the prize-winning author of ...

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Understanding E-Carceration by James Kilgore is an excellent primer on the broad topic of the surveillance state and how it serves to expand the number under the carceral umbrella while reducing the number in physical prison. While a significant portion of this book, and indeed much of what I have read elsewhere, highlights the conditions in the United States, the problem is both international in scope and used in different ways under different regimes around the world. This is included here and needs to be addressed but many readers of this book will likely be in the US and, since we imprison a far greater percentage of our citizens than other nations, it makes for an excellent example of the harm being done. No doubt those happy to have a so-called justice system that unequally applies and enforces the law will find fault with the idea that someone convicted (not always guilty but convicted nonetheless) is still human and deserves to be treated as such. While this book would do them the most good they likely won't read it with an open mind, so I am finished discussing them. For those unsure why some of what has been touted as prison and/or justice reform is not as positive as it might sound, I would suggest reading this. The writing is straightforward and will lend itself to a quick reading. I would suggest slowing down and maybe looking up some of the sources mentioned. If you see the merit in Kilgore's argument but want to learn more before making up your mind, that makes perfect sense. I didn't go through the notes and jot down every resource, so I may be redundant here. But here are a few books that I am familiar with that would make excellent companion reads. I know he mentions Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and that is an excellent place to start. I would also recommend "I Have Nothing to Hide": And 20 Other Myths About Surveillance and Privacy by Heidi Boghosian, Prison and Social Death by Joshua M Price, and Prison By Any Other Name by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law. There are other very good books as well but these are ones I know very well. I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter where they may currently stand on the issue, who truly wants to make society as a whole better and more equitable for all. The writing is clear, the examples and analogies make sense, and the suggestions are, at the very least, good starting points. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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