Out From the Underground: Reflections on Activism and Abolition An interview with James Kilgore

Élise Thorburn

James Kilgore is a researcher and an activist based in Urbana, Illinois. In the 1970s, he became involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army (sla), a left-wing revolutionary group infamous for the use of armed violence to further its political goals, including the kidnapping of media heiress Patty Hearst (although James joined after these events). Following the killing and capture of most sla members, James lived underground for 27 years, mainly in Zimbabwe and South Africa until he was extradited to the us in 2002 to serve six and a half years in prison for explosives and passport fraud charges. Following his release in 2009, he began to work at the University of Illinois and is currently the director of the Challenging E-Carceration project which focuses on developing alternatives to electronic forms of incarceration. Élise Thorburn sat down with James to speak about his life as an activist, both while underground and currently as an organizer in the prison abolition movement.

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