Charles Koch has an interesting new cause: reforming the U.S. criminal justice system. For those of us who know anything at all about the Koch brothers, this seems a little strange, since they’re behind all sorts of insidious efforts to make life difficult for all but the super rich. They’re the epitome of corruption, and of what’s wrong with the U.S. today.
Despite all this, Charles Koch’s chief counsel, Mark Holden, gave an interview to the Wichita Eagle, in which he said that Koch started thinking about how our criminal justice system works when Koch Industries had to fight 97 felony counts of environmental abuse in court 20 years ago. Holden said that it showed him firsthand what happens to anybody who gets into the criminal justice system.
The interview takes a bizarre direction, because it’s just so easy to expect that Charles Koch wants to reform the system to benefit wealthy corporations even more than they already do (a measly $10 million settlement for all that environmental abuse? PLEASE!). Koch actually wondered how “the little guy,” someone who didn’t have Koch Industries’ resources, would deal with a prosecution like that.
Charles Koch has been studying whether our criminal justice system is overcriminalized, and has come to the conclusion that it is. That’s true; we have the highest incarceration rate of any Western nation, and we have more people in prison now than Stalin ever had in his Gulag Archipelago at any one time. Koch doesn’t like jailing people for non-violent crimes, and he doesn’t like how the system is stacked against what he calls “the disadvantaged.”
So what’s the catch? This is Charles Koch. There must be a catch. In the interview, Holden said that legislators have fallen into the habit of just making more laws, which don’t work. So there’s a possibility that this is part of the Kochs’ “uber-small government” ideal.
However, Holden also said that the problem has a racial angle, too, because the burden of our broken system has fallen most heavily on minorities. It’s resulted in what happened in Ferguson and New York City recently, with all the anger against police.
It also hurts people’s 6th Amendment right to an attorney, because public defenders’ offices are badly underfunded and the poor can’t afford their own attorneys in court. They’re further hurt by their inability to get a job and become productive, contributing members of society after serving time in prison. That, in turn, hurts the economy.
So Charles Koch’s aim could also have to do with the economy and profit, but this is an awfully convoluted way of increasing Koch Industries’ wealth, and his own personal wealth and power. The easier way to do it is to continue to flout environmental laws and buy more elections.
Does Charles Koch really have a bit of a heart with this? The man has formed an alliance with the ACLU to help fight against the problem, and his views are also in line with those of attorneys who otherwise can’t stand him and what he stands for.
In fact, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, praised Charles Koch for his donations and support of that group, according to “The Huffington Post.” So, this is the question now: Is he for real, or have the Koch brothers found a new and extremely innovative way of pulling the wool over our eyes so they can keep serving themselves?
Featured image: via screengrab from “A Passion for Ideas” interview