On the last weekend of January, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch met with hundreds of Koch network donors in Palm Springs, California to drum up support for their Safe Streets and Second Chances initiative, a $4 million pilot program aimed at implementing and studying ways to help former prisoners overcome reentry hurdles and become productive members of society.
According to The Hill, the program will begin on a trial basis in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania and will offer individualized reentry programs beginning on the first day of incarceration for 1,000 inmates. Those inmates helped in the initial trial phase of the program will include people from both rural and urban areas.
USA Today notes that Koch Industries attorney Mark Holden said, “Over 95 percent of people who are incarcerated will eventually be released, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure that these individuals are better when they leave prison than before they went in. The vision of ‘Safe Streets and Second Chances’ is that, rather than waiting until the end of an individual’s sentence, the reentry process should begin on day one.”
Holden recently attended a White House meeting with President Trump and other officials to promote criminal justice reform.
“We want to ensure that those who enter the justice system are able to contribute to their communities after they leave prison, which is one of many very difficult subjects we’re discussing having to do with our great country,” said President Trump at the meeting.
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Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who will run the program, described it by saying, “This unique initiative marries research-driven policy and reentry services reforms. Even though incarceration and reentry impacts millions of people’s lives in our country, there is a huge void in research on creating a successful transition of people from prison back home to our communities. We’re closing the gap.”
TIME is reporting that the Koch brothers’ gathering to promote the initiative drew unlikely bedfellows like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the rapper Scarface, and Olympian John Carlos, known for having displayed a black power salute on the winners’ podium at the 1968 Olympics.
“Instead of division, this event was a powerful example of bringing people together. I mean, who hosts an event like this? This network does. The opportunity to work with folks that might disagree with our Seminar Network on all kinds of issues coming together in common cause to solve common problems is an exciting part of what we’re doing,” said Koch network executive Evan Feinberg.
“We all need to be fully committed to a society in which everybody has an opportunity to make a better life for themselves. That’s what we’re about,” said Charles Koch.
The billionaire Koch brothers are often criticized in media op-eds for spending large sums of their personal wealth to influence politics. The Koch network reportedly hopes to spend around $400 million to influence the 2018 midterm elections.