The political and policy network aligned with the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch is launching a $4 million pilot project to help former prisoners successfully reenter society, reports USA Today. The so-called Safe Streets & Second Chances project will be among the topics the Kochs and several hundred like-minded donors will explore this weekend when they gather near Palm Springs, Ca., for the network’s annual winter meeting. The retreat will confront what the Kochs and other donors view as obstacles to achievement in the realms of public policy, education and in local communities.
Overhauling the criminal-justice system has been a priority of Charles Koch, a libertarian-leaning industrialist at the helm of a Kansas-based industrial conglomerate. He has lobbied to reduce penalties for non-violent offenses, to rein in the practice of seizing the assets of criminal suspects and to make it easier for convicted felons to gain occupational licenses and other work opportunities once they are released. The new prisoner reentry program will start with a trial experiment involving 1,000 participants in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania. The goal is to develop individualized reentry plans that start on the first day prisoners are jailed. “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,” said Koch Industries executive Mark Holden.