Koch Industries Senior Vice President Mark Holden gave a speech last week announcing Koch support for the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill.
The SAFE Justice Act was introduced Thursday by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) and Bobby Scott (D., Va.).
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"Criminal justice reform is the right thing to do, from a moral, constitutional and fiscal perspective," Holden said. "Now we believe to improve the criminal justice system, it must, one, enhance public safety, two, honor and defend the Bill of Rights, and three, treat everyone in the system, from the accused to the victims, law enforcement, everyone, with dignity and respect as an individual … Based on our understanding of what is currently in the SAFE Justice Act, it furthers those three goals."
Holden said the reforms in the bill had been adopted by many red and blue states to positive effect. The Koch brothers are longtime advocates for such measures.
The bill, H.R. 2944, would apply at the federal level lessons from successful state efforts to reduce recidivism and decrease the number of non-violent inmates in prisons. The bill already boasts 20 additional co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
"We cannot allow our criminal justice system to remain on its current trajectory," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "It’s not only fiscally unsustainable, but morally irresponsible."
The comprehensive legislation proposes a broad set of reforms to the U.S. justice system, including increasing the use of sentencing alternatives such as probation for lower-level, non-violent offenders; encouraging judicial districts to operate mental health, veteran and other problem-solving courts; and prioritizing prison space for violent and "career" criminals by expanding the release of geriatric and terminally ill offenders.
"We at Koch want to help people, especially the poor, improve their lives by removing obstacles to opportunity," Holden said. "Our current criminal justice system is a major barrier to opportunity for people, particularly the poor, who make a mistake, especially a nonviolent drug-related one when they're young, and become branded with it for life … We don't need to be tougher on crime. We need to be smarter on crime."