WATCH: Author and advocate Cyntoia Brown Long, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to discuss criminal justice reform

For the first time since former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency to sex trafficking victim and convicted murderer Cyntoia Brown Long, the two will sit down together for an event at Vanderbilt University to discuss criminal justice reform.


The event, “Reform for Redemption: Cyntoia Brown Long and Gov. Bill Haslam on Criminal Justice Reform and the Power of Mercy,” will be in Langford Auditorium and livestreamed on March 15 at 6 p.m. CT.


The in-person and virtual event, hosted by the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy, is open to the public.


Brown Long was a victim of sex trafficking and served 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man in 2004 who solicited her when she was 16 years old. After years of lobbying by lawyers, activists and celebrities, Haslam granted Brown Long clemency, calling her case “tragic and complex.”


Her case also inspired the introduction of state legislation aimed at protecting minors who are victims of sex trafficking. While in prison, Brown Long earned both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree and mentored at-risk girls to help them avoid the struggles she faced growing up.



  • Chris Slobogin, Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law, director of the Criminal Justice Program and affiliate professor of psychiatry

Slobogin has authored more than 100 articles, books and chapters on topics relating to criminal law and procedure, mental health law and evidence. Named director of Vanderbilt Law School’s Criminal Justice Program in 2009, he is one of the five most cited criminal law and procedure law professors in the country over the past five years, according to the Leiter Report.


Brown Long, a graduate of Lipscomb University through the LIFE (Lipscomb Initiative for Education) Program, is an advocate for restorative justice. She is the author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System (Atria Books, 2019) and the co-founder of the nonprofit Foundation for Justice, Freedom, and Mercy with her husband, Jaime Long.


  • Bill Haslam, former Tennessee governor and co-chair of the Project on Unity and American Democracy

Haslam is the former two-term mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, and former two-term governor of Tennessee. Haslam serves on the boards of Teach for America and Young Life. In fall 2019, Haslam became a visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.





The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy is a nonpartisan initiative that aims to elevate research and evidence-based reasoning into the national conversation. Drawing on original research, evidence-based papers and crucial conversations from Vanderbilt’s world-class faculty and visionary thought leaders of all political persuasions, the timely endeavor aims to give policymakers and the public the tools needed to combat conspiracy and unfounded ideology with evidence, data and respectful discourse. The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy can make a meaningful contribution to solving society’s most pressing challenges and bridging our deepest differences.


  • Visit our NEWS & EVENTS page to view other programs from the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy.
  • Stay informed on compelling panels, events, news and information from the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy through the biweekly newsletter, On Unity.