When you think about billionaires the Koch brothers, the last thing you think of is fair and equal justice. Charles and David Koch, the men behind the Tea Party and anything to do with discrediting global warming has spent their lives and most of their wealth trying to make the levels as uneven as possible.
Well, Charles is having a change of heart so to speak. In an interview recently, he spoke bout the need to make the justice system more even for all.
Of all the contentious history between Koch Industries and the U.S. government, the Corpus Christi, Texas, case from 1995 is the one that Charles Koch remembers most vividly.
A federal grand jury indicted his company on 97 felonies involving alleged environmental crimes at an oil refinery.
Prosecutors dropped all but one of the charges six years later, after the company spent tens of millions of dollars defending itself.
Ultimately, Koch Petroleum Group agreed to pay a $10 million settlement.
“It was a really, really torturous experience,” said Mark Holden, Koch’s chief counsel. “We learned first-hand what happens when anyone gets into the criminal justice system.”
Holden said Charles Koch wondered afterward “how the little guy who doesn’t have Koch’s resources deals with prosecutions like that.”
No one at Koch wants to re-litigate the Corpus Christi case, Holden said. But it prompted Charles Koch to study the justice system – both federal and state – wondering whether it has been over-criminalized with too many laws and too many prosecutions of nonviolent offenders, not only for him but for everybody.
His conclusion: Yes, it has.
Ten years ago, he began giving money to support efforts by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to help train defense lawyers and reverse what some see as a national trend to get tough on crime, which has resulted in the tripling of the incarceration rate since the 1980s and has stripped the poor of their rights to a legal defense.
He’s going to give more to that effort, he said.
“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.”
The nation’s criminal justice system needs reform, “especially for the disadvantaged,” Koch said, “making it fair and making (criminal) sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.”
Holden said legislators in recent decades drifted into a habit of adding more laws every year and taking stands to show themselves as “getting tough on crime.” It has gone too far, Holden said.
The weight has fallen most heavily on minorities, Holden said.
It has festered in neighborhoods and fostered the anger of people protesting against police actions in Missouri and New York. And, Holden said, “It definitely appears to have a racial angle, intended or not.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that one in three black men will spend time in prison.
That wasn’t it. He went on to speak further about the discrepancies he sees in the judicial system. Read more here