An unusual coalition of groups on the left and right — from the company owned by the conservative Koch brothers to the liberal Center for American Progress — will spend more than $5 million advocating for criminal justice reform.
“Our justice system needs reform. It’s simply too complicated, too big, and too expensive — and all Americans are picking up that tab,” Christine Leonard, a former White House aide who will lead the Coalition for Public Safety, said in a statement.
“The Coalition for Public Safety is an opportunity for all of us to set aside ideological and political differences and unite on an issue that matters to so many Americans,” said Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries, in a statement. “Koch is pleased to be a supporter of this diverse Coalition.”
The coalition includes FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group; Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union. It is backed by several major foundations.
It also includes the Faith & Freedom Coalition, The Leadership Conference Education Fund and Right on Crime.
News of the coalition’s formation was first reported by The New York Times.
The coalition alone will spend more than $5 million on its efforts at the federal, state and local level, the Times reported. In a release, the group said that it would use "educational events, national outreach, and media" to promote its proposals.
The formation of the group comes amid bipartisan support for many criminal justice reforms and months after conservative donor Charles Koch, who along with his brother David is an owner of Koch Industries, said criminal justice reform would be one of his priorities in 2015.
Koch said in December that he thought that reforms should make “sentences more appropriate to the crime that has been committed." But the political future of sentencing reform, arguably the most sweeping proposal to reduce the prison population, remains murky.
For years, a patchwork of conservative and progressive groups have argued that changes should be made to the mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that are partly responsible for the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.
It is unclear which reforms will gain traction in Washington. Some lawmakers are in favor of making reforms to the prison system but not changing the mandatory minimums.
A bill to reduce the mandatory minimums was introduced in the Senate last week, as was a more moderate prison reform package that is already supported by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFill the Eastern District of Virginia On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves MORE (R-Iowa).