"Federal officers in West Virginia are fleeing prisons. Their jobs are very stressful and can be very unpleasant," Elsner said.
Many people tend to look at prison populations in racial and ethnic terms.
"In West Virginia, a lot of people view the prison system through a kind of racial lens, believing the proportion of African-Americans and Hispanics in prison is very disproportionate to the whole prison population.
"West Virginia doesn't have large African-American or Hispanic populations. People in prison are, for the most part, poor people. I think that is a correct way of viewing this issue," Elsner said.
Opposition to our current prison system is growing, especially among many political conservatives, according to Paul Glastris, editor of "The Washington Monthly," a magazine published six times a year.
For decades, conservatives championed "tough-on-crime policies that swelled America's prison population to gulag-like levels."
In recent years, the nation's press, Glastris argues, failed to report on the thoughts and writings of "right-wing policy intellectuals" who are challenging and changing conservative attitudes about crime.
"Instead of promoting harsher sentences as a bulwark against disorder, more and more conservatives are challenging the prison-industrial complex as a statist abomination that wastes taxpayer dollars and countenances homosexual rape," Glastris writes.
The magazine's article, "The Conservative War on Prisons," was published in its November-December 2012 issue.
Elsner's first book, "Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in American's Prison" was praised as a "wake-up call" by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., as well as by many other people on the political left and right.
Elsner worked for the Reuters News Agency, where he covered the State Department, the White House and international affairs. He will shortly become Vice President of Communications for J Street, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates a peaceful solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Saturday's ACLU dinner also will present retiring Sen. Dan. Foster, D-Kanawha, with the Roger Baldwin Founders' Award.
The evening begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m. Music will be provided by Worldbeat Ensemble Option 22 and a silent auction will take place throughout the evening.
Tickets are $65 per person for the program at 1600 Virginia St. E. in Charleston. For information, contact Nancy Hill at 304-345-9246, ext. 102.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.