We Need a New Paradigm to Halt the Unprecedented Growth of Electronic Monitoring

After more than four decades in the shadows, electronic monitors have captured the hearts and minds of law enforcement. In Harris County, Texas, the ranks of those being tracked with electronic devices while awaiting trial skyrocketed from 27 people in 2019 to nearly 4,000 in 2021. Authorities from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increased the number of migrants tracked nationally by the SmartLINK cellphone app from over 86,000 in December 2020 to more than 247,000 in September of this year. And in an unprecedented move, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) released 46,000 people to home confinement from March 2020…

California Is Dependent on Prison Labor for Fighting Fires. This Must End.

On September 7, 2022, after many attempted delays from the City of Susanville, California, a Lassen County judge ruled in favor of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to close one of Susanville’s two prisons. The court case and public debate over the prison closure has been almost entirely based on the anticipated loss of 1,000 jobs in the prison, but the closure of this facility marks an enormous shift in the use of prison labor for public work. The California Correctional Center in Susanville is set to be closed by June 2023. It is one of two remaining training hubs for…

Prisons Aim to Stifle Creativity. Here’s a Book That Pushes Back.

I spent six and a half years in prison. Much of that time, I was working on one fiction manuscript or another. I had to stumble around in the darkness to figure out how to do this. So do most writers in prison. Now there’s a book to help change that. PEN America’s The Sentences That Create Us (Haymarket Books, 2022), edited by Caits Meissner, is the dream of every incarcerated writer: a collection of how-to-write essays by those who can speak to that audience best — other incarcerated writers plus people who have taught writing classes in prison. The…

I Survived Death Row, But I’ll Never Escape It

Oklahoma plans to take the life of Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II next week, and four more lives in coming months. Executions are also planned in Texas and Alabama. Like many people, I’m physically repulsed by the thought of the government killing — murdering — anyone. But an impending execution affects me more than most. I survived 13 grueling years on death row in Illinois. During that time, I witnessed 12 people — sons, fathers, brothers — executed at the hands of the state. Each of us were told our lives were beyond repair, that the world was a better…

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