Why A Billionaire Is Fighting Against Overcriminalization

Why A Billionaire Is Fighting Against Overcriminalization

Usually when politicians and mega billionaires get together to talk things out, it’s not for the good of the people. It’s for the good of the business owners or the politicians. However, this is not the case with Charles Koch who is now making some unofficial, if not surprising, alliances with strong liberals like George Soros of the American Civil Liberties Union, and conservative senators like Rand Paul, in order to reform the criminal justice system and stop overcriminalization.

In an interview with The Wichita Eagle, a newspaper from his Kansas hometown, Charles Koch expressed that he felt that the justice system was “over-criminalized with too many laws and too many prosecutions of nonviolent offenders.”

“Over the next year, we are going to be pushing the issues key to this, which need a lot of work in this country,” Koch said. “And that would be freedom of speech, cronyism and how that relates to opportunities for the disadvantaged . . . [and] making it fair and making [criminal] sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.” (Wichita Eagle)

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and a large percentage of inmates are in prison for nonviolent or one-time (also nonviolent) offenses. It costs taxpayers in Kansas roughly $25,000, to keep a single prisoner in jail for a year. Do we really want to be spending that much money on people who have committed lower level felonies? Are they really worth all that upkeep?

“That’s more than what it costs to send a kid to college for a year,” said David Gilkey, a Wichita youth mentor.  (Wichita Eagle)

It’s almost unheard of for such powerful and influential (not to mention disparate) citizens to unite together for a single cause such as this, but Koch and Soros clearly share the same passion for reducing the number of inmates and conserving valuable government resources.*

Senator Rand Paul has made numerous propositions to the Senate to reform the justice system, and most recently has proposed the REDEEM Act in July 2014. Thousands of former convicts find that their former convictions make them ineligible for many jobs, renting an apartment, or voting, even though their crimes were nonviolent, and they were never a danger to the public well-being. Sen. Paul intends to change this by removing the questions relating to former convictions on job applications and housing agreements.

But not all Republicans agree with Sen. Paul or Koch on their ideas to reform the justice system of the United States. In surveys, it’s been found that the typical, older Republican party members see no reason to reform the justice system. The War on Drugs begun by President Nixon in the 1970’s is one that many of these kinds of Republicans still support and want to see maintained through this new wave of drug and substance abuse. The proposition to reform the justice system to release drug users sooner, or to even completely eradicate incarceration for marijuana possession or use, is one that horrifies the more traditional Republican voter.

Yet here we have Charles Koch, funding and assisting Sen. Paul as he chooses to fight against the current justice system we see in the United States. This kind of cooperation and party change is adding to the already growing schism between younger and older Republican ideals, and while some are terrified of traditions being forsaken, others herald it as the beginning of a better, newer Republican GOP.

Although Sen. Paul is working with Koch, and Koch in turn working with the extremely liberal Soros, it does not at all mean that the senator agrees with all of Koch’s or Soros’s personal opinions. We have to remember that they are just that: personal opinions.

This kind of cooperation between some very traditionally different political heads could mean that a new era is coming for the United States—an era in which the fervent partisanship and in-fighting between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians are slowly fading as people begin to work together to champion issues which cross party lines. Rather than dividing, they are uniting citizens together to better the nation they all love and hope to see prosper for many years in the future. This could all be starting right here with the beginnings of justice system reform.

Let us know what you think about the proposed reforms, either by Charles Koch or Rand Paul—do you agree with releasing more nonviolent inmates, or limiting sentences? Or do you think more federal spending should be allotted to the prisons to maintain the War on Drugs and the War on Crime? Send us a message or comment below to share your thoughts on whether or not we’re seeing more overcriminalization in America.

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