This week, Bella Bravo speaks with Jarrod Shanahan, a writer, activist, and professor of Criminal Justice based in Chicago. Shanahan has been on previous episodes, discussing mass incarceration and the George Floyd rebellion. We are speaking today about his new book Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage.

Captives recounts the last seventy years of New York politics from the perspective of the city’s jails. Shanahan’s research began when he himself was awaiting a sentence he knew would land him on the island. His observations and experiences of Rikers’ violence during his short-stint there became the foundation for this history of mass incarceration and the triumph of neoliberalism. Drawing upon C.L.R. James, Shanahan sees that historical controversies are always about the present. So while Captives tells the story of how Rikers Island—and the social order it represents—came to be, it bears many lessons for those struggling against prisons and jails today.

About Shanahan:

Jarrod Shanahan is a writer, activist, and educator based in Chicago. He works as an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Governors State University and is the author of the Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage. Shanahan and his frequent collaborator Zhandarka Kurti have previously appeared on Kite Line discussing mass incarceration and the 2020 George Floyd uprising. They are the authors of States of Incarceration: Rebellion, Reform, and the Future of America’s Punishment System. Along with Geert Dhondt, they are editors of Hard Crackers: Chronicles of Everyday Life and Treason to Whiteness Is Loyalty to Humanity, a forthcoming collection of Noel Ignatiev’s essays.

Previous Kite Line episodes with Shanahan: