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I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 16 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

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Univ. of Illinois: Renew scholar and writer James Kilgore’s contract

by Peter Wagner, May 5, 2014

I was saddened to learn that my friend and colleague James Kilgore, a scholar and writer on race and justice issues, was the subject of a series of attack pieces focused on his decades-old criminal record from the 1970s. I was shocked, however, when shortly thereafter the University of Illinois suddenly refused to renew Mr. Kilgore’s contract as a lecturer in the Department of Global Studies despite his stellar performance reviews by faculty and students alike.

The University of Illinois was fully aware of Mr. Kilgore’s history during the hiring process, and has greatly benefited from Mr. Kilgore’s scholarship for more than three years. As a petition signed by more than 300 University of Illinois faculty members states, the decision to not renew Mr. Kilgore’s contract,

…represents a serious blow to academic freedom and employment equity. The University should not base employment decisions on outside political pressure. Furthermore, faculty and staff contracts should be renewed based on performance and programmatic needs, not on a person’s political or criminal background.

We submitted our own letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise urging her to renew Mr. Kilgore’s contract. Please add your voice to the call by signing the petition on change.org.

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