Empty the Prisons Bill Now on Fast Track
By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
We are witnessing a carefully orchestrated political and media campaign to pass the George Soros-backed Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123) on the grounds that it is “bipartisan.” But critics are calling it a soft-on-crime bill that will backfire on the Republicans who help pass it.
A big hole in the congressional process to rush the bill through to full approval in the Senate has been exposed by a former prosecutor who says victims of crime were not given a chance to be heard.
The former prosecutor, Mary Leary, is a professor at Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. She has written a scathing review of the bill and the process underway to pass it, saying, “The president and Congress need to reach out to victims. The president has gone all the way to Oklahoma to meet with prisoners. Perhaps he should take a walk in Washington and meet with one of the victims of the over 40,000 crimes that occurred there in 2014 or speak to the families affected by a homicide rate that has increased over 47 percent since last year.”
The same criticism applies to the senators who passed the bill.
Despite the flaws, the following papers have weighed in with editorials in favor of the legislation:
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Los Angeles Times
- Cedar Rapids Gazette (IA)
- Waco Herald Tribune (TX)
- Kansas City Star
- Santa Rosa Press Democrat (CA)
- Indianapolis Star
The Waco Herald Tribune made a correct point, however, in noting that “the reforms were pressed hard by both the politically powerful Koch brothers as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.”
But while the Koch brothers did give $5 million to the Coalition for Public Safety, a group that met with former Attorney General Eric Holder to push “criminal justice reform,” it is the left-wing billionaire, George Soros, who has really been behind the campaign. He gave the ACLU $50 million in 2014 “to end mass incarceration.”
We noted in a previous article that one Soros-funded group, Critical Resistance, was founded by communist Angela Davis and says it seeks “to end the prison industrial complex” by “challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.”
We thought the group had only received $100,000 from Soros. It turns out the organization got $200,000 from the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations in the year 2000, $200,000 in 2002, and another $100,000 in 2009.
Dr. Tina Trent, an advocate for victims of crime, was writing about the campaign for “criminal justice reform” when it was primarily underwritten by Soros and before the Koch brothers started pouring millions of dollars into it. She discovered that the group Critical Resistance had invented the “cop-watch concept” that would be popularized by Van Jones in Oakland, California, through a group called Bay Area Police Watch. Angela Davis wrote, Are Prisons Obsolete?, a book arguing that criminals are victims of capitalist society.
Van Jones would later become Obama’s so-called Green Jobs Czar, only to resign when his communist background came to light. He is now working with Koch Industries to promote the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
As a commentator on CNN, Jones has also been promoting the bill, calling it a “smart” way to deal with crime. “By year’s end,” he writes, “President Barack Obama could sign into law major criminal justice reforms—passed because of the leadership and full engagement of the congressional GOP.”
If so, it would be a major victory for George Soros and the Democratic Party.
In total, according to “prisoner rights advocate” Christopher Zoukis, George Soros and his Open Society Foundations have “invested” more than $200 million in the past decade toward “reform of criminal justice policies.”
The evidence is mounting that Senate Republicans voting for the bill have walked into a trap set by the leftists. Jonathan Keim, Counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, advises Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not to bring the bill up for a vote. He writes, “…why would Senate leaders bother bringing it to a vote when the fault-lines established by the opposing Senators would expose Republicans to charges of being ‘soft on crime’ in the upcoming election?”
Those opposing senators, as we reported, include Republicans Ted Cruz (TX), Orrin Hatch (UT), David Perdue (GA), Jeff Sessions (AL) and David Vitter (LA).
But other conservatives are making their voices known, such as Dan Cadman of the Center for Immigration Studies, who says the bill could result in illegal aliens being released from prison to prey on innocent Americans.
He writes about S.2123, “…there is nothing in the bill to ensure that released alien prisoners will be detained during the entire pendency of deportation proceedings. In fact, it is entirely possible that in some instances alien prisoners whose actual time served is substantially lessened by the provisions of S.2123 may find themselves in a position to go before the immigration court and ask for relief from removal because they will no longer face statutory debarment under various provisions of the immigration laws, as would have happened had they been obliged to serve the original sentence.”
If Congressional Republicans pass the bill, it would not only be a major victory for President Obama but likely also for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton “made it [incarceration] the centerpiece of her first major policy address since officially declaring her candidacy in a speech Wednesday at Columbia University in New York City,” gushed Leonard Noisette at the website of the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations back in April.
Noisette went on: “Clinton’s speech followed a front-page story in the New York Times noting an unusual consensus among Democrats and Republicans in the 2016 presidential race on the need for criminal justice reform. New alliances are being formed between such politically disparate groups as the Center for American Progress and the Koch Brothers. Indeed, these issues are fostering a spirit of bipartisan cooperation seldom seen in our ideologically polarized politics of late.”
Isn’t it interesting that Clinton chose that theme after The New York Times pumped it up as a major issue?
While the Koch brothers may have funded some good free-market causes over the years, the issue of “criminal justice reform” has clearly been hijacked by the left.
The Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA are among the groups endorsing the bill. They cited the comments of Pope Francis, made in a talk with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility outside Philadelphia. Pope Francis said, “This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are a part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.”
They added, “We join the Holy Father by advocating for reforms to our nation’s criminal justice policies that lead to mercy, healing and restoration.”
The only reference to crime victims comes in this part of the letter: “Our Catholic tradition supports the community’s right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith also teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice and restoration, not vengeance.”
Hence, offenders are, in effect, being treated as victims by these liberal Catholic groups.
Leary, the professor at Catholic University, spoke for many Catholics when she voiced concerns that the victims of crime have not been heard, as S.2123 has been marked up and passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She wrote that “…apparently no one in the Senate thought it appropriate to hear what victims have to say about criminal justice reform. Last year, about 1.17 million violent crimes and nearly 8.3 million property crimes were reported to law enforcement. The victims of that criminal activity are the people who bear the direct and secondary harm. That is not all. It is not just that victims were not included as witnesses; they were barely even mentioned. A review of the written testimony of all nine witnesses indicates that the word ‘victim’ or any derivative thereof was used a mere nine times.”
But no advocate for victims of crimes testified.
She added, “Although the Judiciary Committee saw it appropriate to include representatives from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, prison ministers and lawyers, it did not apparently see it necessary to include the people most affected by crime through no fault of their own—victims.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums is another Soros-funded group, having received $600,000 from his Open Society Foundations in 2012, $200,000 in 2008, and $400,000 in 2007.
Leary is a former prosecutor and attorney who has focused on crimes against women and children, including the exploitation of children and women, child pornography, child prostitution, computer facilitated crimes against children, and family violence cases.
In her National Law Journal article about the flaws in the bill, she noted that Congress passed the Crime Victims Rights Act in 2004, giving victims the right to be “reasonably heard” at public court proceedings.
“This same Congress should recognize that right in this context and allow victims to be ‘reasonably heard’ regarding” the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, she said. “Not only is it reasonable to listen to crime victims, but it is necessary for any criminal justice reform to be legitimate.”