Unlikely Criminal Justice Reform Bedfellows Make Their Pitches In D.C.


Criminal justice reform may be the only issue in Washington, D.C., now that could bring together the Koch brothers' top lawyer, an environmental activist, the former head of the National Rifle Association and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), says Yahoo News. In a city best known for dysfunction and discord, the issue has stood out as a rare area of common ground between some Democrats and Republicans. At a panel on reforming the criminal justice system hosted by the Constitution Project advocacy group, the bipartisan array of speakers seemed nonplussed by the harmony across an otherwise gaping political divide.

Van Jones, former Obama administration official and liberal commentator, was seated next to Mark Holden, Koch Industries' general counsel and the face of the conservative mega-donors' efforts to lower incarceration rates. Jones said he hoped politicians would seize on this moment to reform the U.S. penal system so that the U.S. no longer imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Franken spoke on a bill they're reintroducing to provide more mental health services to prisoners and to fund special mental health courts that emphasize treatment over doing time. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi.) said he believes lawmakers should review every federal regulation or law that carries prison time to decide if it's merited.

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