Fact: More than 100,000 individuals in the US are held in private prisons and private immigration detention centers. These institutions are criticized for making money off mass incarceration―$5 billion every year―and have become a focus of the anti-mass incarceration movement. The Department of Justice under President Obama attempted to cut off private prisons, while DOJ under Trump has embraced these institutions.
Few journalists or scholars have seen these prisons firsthand―until now. Join Lauren-Brooke Eisen―senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice―for the launch of her new book, Inside Private Prisons, as she reflects on her unprecedented access to our nation’s private penal system and what she’s uncovered about these corporate prisons.
Conversation will be moderated by Nicole M. Austin-Hillery, Brennan Center Director and Counsel, and include additional guests (TBA). This program is produced by The Brennan Center for Justice in partnership with the NYU John Brademas Center, and hosted by NYU Washington, DC.
Meet the Author
Lauren-Brooke "L.B." Eisen
Lauren-Brooke Eisen is Senior Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program where she focuses on improving the criminal justice process through legal reforms, specifically how the criminal justice system is funded.
Eisen is the author of a forthcoming book Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration, which will be published by the Columbia University Press in November 2017.
Previously Ms. Eisen was a Senior Program Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice in the Center on Sentencing and Corrections where she worked on policies that aimed to improve public safety while reducing prison populations. Ms. Eisen also served as an assistant district attorney in New York City where she served in the Appeals Bureau, the Criminal Court Bureau, and the Sex Crimes Special Victims Bureau where she prosecuted a wide range of misdemeanor and felony cases. Before entering law school, Ms. Eisen worked as a beat reporter for a daily newspaper in Laredo, Texas where she covered criminal justice issues. Ms. Eisen has taught an undergraduate seminar on mass incarceration at Yale, served as an adjunct instructor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and supervises NYU Law students who participate in the Brennan Center Public Policy Advocacy Clinic.
She has expertise in state sentencing and correctional reform, legislative drafting, bipartisan commissions, state corrections and courts, and implementing evidence-based criminal justice practices with departments of corrections. She also serves on the Advisory Council of the New York City Bar’s Task Force on Mass Incarceration.
Her work has been published by the Vera Institute of Justice, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Journal of Public Interest Law, Politico, the Marshall Project, the Justice Policy Institute, the American Constitution Society, the New York Law Journal, the Crime Report, MSNBC, The USA Today, Roll Call, The Huffington Post, The Times-Picayune, The Albany Times-Union, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, and the Hill. She holds an AB from Princeton University and a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Meet the Moderator
Nicole Austin-Hillery is the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office which she opened in March 2008.
In her role, Ms. Austin-Hillery has overseen the growth and development of the Brennan Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington. Ms. Austin-Hillery is the organization’s chief liaison to Congress and the Administration. Her day to day work includes oversight of the Washington office operations and staff, serving as the chief advocate for the Brennan Center on a host of justice and democracy issues and coordinating coalition work with other civil rights, social justice and democracy organizations in Washington. Priority issue areas of Ms. Austin-Hillery’s portfolio include voting rights, racial and criminal justice advocacy and reform, indigent defense and vote restoration for those who have lost the right to vote. She also supports work in the Money and Politics issue area on a limited basis. Ms. Austin-Hillery provides both strategic and advocacy counsel ranging from legislative analysis to policy development. She serves as both a media spokesperson and frequent presenter on Brennan Center issues. Ms. Austin-Hillery has written opinion pieces for several publications including Roll Call, The Root, CNN.Com and BillMoyers.Com and has been a contributing writer to several advocacy publications. Notably, she recently authored a chapter in the American Bar Association's 2016 volume of America Votes entitled "Voter ID as a Form of Voter Suppression." She has testified before state and local legislative bodies as well as submitted testimony for Congressional hearings and serves as a frequent speaker on a host of public interest issues.
Ms. Austin-Hillery has significant litigation experience having practiced with 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 is a former Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School and currently serves on the Board of the Washington Bar Association, as an appointed member of the ABA Advisory Committee on Election Law and as co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Defense Committee. She is a former member of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and is a past-president of the Washington Council of Lawyers. Ms. Austin-Hillery is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University.
Inside Private Prisons:
An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration
When the tough-on-crime politics of the 1980s overcrowded state prisons, private companies saw potential profit in building and operating correctional facilities. Today more than a hundred thousand of the 1.5 million incarcerated Americans are held in private prisons in twenty-nine states and federal corrections. Private prisons are criticized for making money off mass incarceration—to the tune of $5 billion in annual revenue.
Based on Lauren-Brooke Eisen’s work as a prosecutor, journalist, and attorney at policy think tanks, Inside Private Prisons blends investigative reportage and quantitative and historical research to analyze privatized corrections in America.
From divestment campaigns to boardrooms to private immigration-detention centers across the Southwest, Eisen examines private prisons through the eyes of inmates, their families, correctional staff, policymakers, activists, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, undocumented immigrants, and the executives of America’s largest private prison corporations. Private prisons have become ground zero in the anti-mass-incarceration movement. Universities have divested from these companies, political candidates hesitate to accept their campaign donations, and the Department of Justice tried to phase out its contracts with them. On the other side, impoverished rural towns often try to lure the for-profit prison industry to build facilities and create new jobs. Neither an endorsement or a demonization, Inside Private Prisons details the complicated and perverse incentives rooted in the industry, from mandatory bed occupancy to vested interests in mass incarceration. If private prisons are here to stay, how can we fix them? This book is a blueprint for policymakers to reform practices and for concerned citizens to understand our changing carceral landscape.