Incarceration and Inequality
September 16, 2020
A new Brennan Center report shows how involvement with the criminal justice system depresses individuals’ earnings — a pattern that contributes to racial and economic disparities. A virtual panel will discuss why ending mass incarceration is both a moral and economic imperative.
The United States’ 400-year history of racial injustice continues to produce profound economic inequalities today. A new Brennan Center report shows how involvement with the criminal justice system lowers individuals’ earnings — a pattern that contributes to racial and economic disparities, and casts doubt on whether second chances are possible for affected individuals.
This discussion was on why ending mass incarceration is both a moral and economic imperative and a vital step toward closing the racial wealth gap. Experts from the Brennan Center’s Justice Program were joined by Wes Moore, a New York Times bestselling author and the CEO of Robin Hood.
Nicole Austin-Hillery, Executive Director, US Program, Human Rights Watch
Nicole Austin-Hillery is the Executive Director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch. In this role, Ms. Austin-Hillery leads Human Rights Watch’s efforts to end violations in abusive systems within the United States. Her work focuses on addressing and combatting systemic racism, improving the U.S. immigration system, tackling rights problems within the domestic criminal justice system and advocating for policies to address poverty and inequality informed by international human rights standards.
Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Ms. Austin-Hillery was the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office which she opened in March 2008. At the Brennan Center, she oversaw the growth and development of the Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington and served as its chief representative before Congress and the Executive Branch.
Ms. Austin-Hillery has testified before state and local legislative bodies as well as Congress. She has published numerous pieces for major news outlets including the Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Hill, CNN.com and others. She is a frequent speaker on a host of progressive issues.
Prior to her time at the Brennan Center, Ms. Austin-Hillery litigated at the law firm of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC as part of the firm's civil rights employment class action practice and as the George N. Lindsay Civil Rights Law Fellow at the national office of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. where she focused on housing litigation and policy.
She served as the 2018-2019 President of the Washington Bar Association, is a past President and current Board member of the Washington Council of Lawyers, formerly served as an Advisory Committee Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law, serves on the Board of Common Cause and is a former co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Defense Function Committee. She has also been an adjunct civil rights professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and is a former Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School. Ms. Austin-Hillery is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University.
Wes Moore, CEO, Robin Hood
Wes Moore is the CEO of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation. He is a bestselling author, a combat veteran, and a social entrepreneur.
Wes’ first book, “The Other Wes Moore,” a perennial New York Times bestseller, captured the nation’s attention on the fine line between success and failure in our communities and in ourselves. That story has been optioned by executive producer Oprah Winfrey and HBO to be made into a movie. He is also the author of the bestselling books “The Work,” “Discovering Wes Moore,” and “This Way Home.”
Wes grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx, where he was raised by a single mom. Despite childhood challenges, he graduated Phi Theta Kappa from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. He earned an MLitt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 2004. Wes then served as a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, including a combat deployment to Afghanistan. He later served as a White House Fellow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Before becoming CEO at Robin Hood, Wes was the founder and CEO at BridgeEdU, an innovative tech platform addressing the college completion and job placement crisis. BridgeEdU reinvents freshman year for underserved students. Wes remains chairman of the board of directors at BridgeEDU. He has also worked in finance as an investment banker with Deutsche Bank in London and with Citigroup in New York.
Wes’ proudest accomplishments are his two children with his wife Dawn.
L.B. Eisen, Director, Justice Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Lauren-Brooke Eisen is director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program where she leads the organization’s work to end mass incarceration. Her team focuses on exposing the profound social and economic hardships that impact those who encounter the justice system while creating policies that ultimately shrink its size and scope.
Eisen has authored several nationally recognized reports and articles on how to reduce America’s reliance on incarceration. Her work has been featured in media outlets across the country, including the New York Times, USA Today, Time, U.S. News & World Report, the Daily News, and the Marshall Project and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, National Public Radio, as well as many other television and radio news programs.
Eisen is the author of Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Columbia University Press, 2017) and a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting journalism grantee. She has served on the Advisory Council of the New York City Bar’s Task Force on Mass Incarceration and the transition committee for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Prosecutor Project, which seeks to develop more effective and efficient prosecutorial practices and serves as a training and curriculum advisor for Fair and Just Prosecution. In 2020, Eisen became a founding member of the Council on Criminal Justice, which works to advance understanding of the criminal justice policy choices facing the nation and build consensus for solutions that enhance safety and justice for all. Eisen taught an undergraduate seminar on mass incarceration at Yale University and served as an adjunct instructor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Before joining the Brennan Center, Eisen was a senior program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice, where she worked on the sentencing and corrections team to implement policies in multiple states to improve public safety while reducing prison populations. She also previously served as an assistant district attorney in New York City, where she worked in the Appeals Bureau, the Criminal Court Bureau, and the Sex Crimes Special Victims Bureau. Before entering law school, Eisen worked as a beat reporter for a daily newspaper in Laredo, Texas, covering criminal justice and immigration. Eisen holds an AB from Princeton University and a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Terry-Ann Craigie, Economics Fellow, Justice Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Terry-Ann Craigie is the economics Fellow in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. She works to document the broader economic and social costs of mass incarceration. Craigie is also an associate professor of economics at Connecticut College, where her research examines the collateral consequences of mass incarceration and the impact of “Ban the Box” policies on the employment of those with criminal records.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, she was a visiting fellow at the Urban Institute and a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. She was selected as a Self-Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse (SSRC) Emerging Scholar in 2013. Craigie has published in journals such as Eastern Economic Journal, Future of Children, Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, Oxford Development Studies, and Review of Black Political Economy. She has presented her research at numerous conferences and seminars, most notably at the White House. She holds an MA and PhD in economics from Michigan State University and BA magna cum laude in economics from Stockton University.
Ames Grawert, Senior Counsel, John L. Neu Justice Counsel, Justice Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Ames Grawert is senior counsel and John L. Neu Justice Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. He leads the program’s quantitative research team, focusing on trends in crime and policing and the collateral costs of mass incarceration. Additionally, he advocates for criminal justice reform policies at the federal level.
Previously, Grawert served as an assistant district attorney in the Appeals Bureau of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, where he reviewed and litigated claims of actual innocence in addition to his appellate work. Before entering public service, he was an associate at Mayer Brown LLP, where he represented criminal defendants pro bono in post-conviction litigation.