Koch's Criminal Justice Agenda:
Protect White-collar Criminals and
Expand the Prison Industrial Complex
For over a decade, Koch Industries and their network of donors have funded a pro-corporate "criminal justice" movement called Right on Crime. It is in lockstep with the criminal justice reform efforts being carried out by the American Legislative Exchange Council.
These reformers seek to protect the interests of their funders, namely white collar criminals and corrections profiteers. While Koch Industries and many members of their network have faced costly convictions, Right on Crime reformers seek to make it harder to convict white collar criminals. Other reforms seek to expand the privatization of prison reentry services, all the while funded by the private contractors lining up for the contracts.
What is worse, many of these reformers are being carried out by the exact same individuals and organizations who proliferated "tough on crime" laws and corrections privatization. Many of them have also been identified as attendees of Koch's secretive donor summits.
The Koch Network's Self-interested Reforms
As documented by the Center for Media and Democracy and Jane Mayer, Koch's Right on Crime project was initially developed to address the “overcriminalization” of white-collar offenders. This includes reforms that require prosecutors to prove criminal intent (mens rea) in order to convict white-collar criminals.
The often celebrated bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts attempted by Koch Industries and the Obama administration in 2015-2016 fell apart when Koch’s hard line politicians declared mens rea reform to be non-negotiable.
The mens rea legislation, which has just been reintroduced in October 2017, would require proof of criminal intent to convict for any federal crimes, unless otherwise stated.
Hidden Money, Secret Seminars, and UnDisclosed Lobbying
Originally launched through the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Right on Crime has been championed by politicians and organizations funded by Koch's network. While some collaborators are predictable, including the American Legislative Exchange Council and free-market think tanks, others include the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The NACDL's White Collar Crime Project began right around the time Koch Industries began covertly funding them. The NACDL appears to have spent a decade lobbying on matters directly impacting Koch Industries without disclosing their funding from Koch.
Despite how little information is known about Koch's secretive donor seminars, nearly all of the politicians, and organizations involved in the Mens Rea reforms can be seen to have attended at least one. Incidentally, the funding they have received from Koch and the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce has skyrocketed.
Privatizing Reentry: Of the Prisons, by the Prisons
In our 2016 joint report with CMD, UnKoch has documented extensive ties between Right on Crime in Florida and the corrections reformers who are looking to expand the prison industrial complex, rather than dismantle it.
The individuals and organizations behind Right on Crime were using nearly identical talking points during the 1990s to push draconian "tough on crime" reforms. With the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council, they pushed legislation that included including mandatory minimums, "three strikes" laws, and laws allowing juveniles to be tried as adults. While this drove a tsunami of mass incarceration, these reformers were also responsible for the proliferation of privatized prisons being filled. For decades, private prisons have joined Koch Industries and others industries in funding and leading ALEC's reforms.
The private corrections industry has since diversified beyond incarceration, drastically expanding into the reentry sector. This includes all pre-release and post-release services like mental health treatment, substance abuse, bail, probation, parole, electronic monitoring, drug/alcohol testing, adult education, and work placement, as well as immigrant detention and monitoring.
Right on Crime is fueling the mass privatization of the reentry sector, which lends a profit motive in sentencing reforms. Early collaborators with Right on Crime can be seen gaining contracts in several states after drastically misreporting recidivism numbers. Koch’s criminal justice program at Florida State University is directly tied to (and co-founded by) corrections contractors, their lobbyists, and Florida industry groups.