Conservative, Progressive Groups Partner on Criminal Justice Reform

The Coalition for Public Safety, a group of conservative and progressive organizations, has announced the launch of a broad-based national reform effort to make the criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more cost effective.

Funded by Koch Industries, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Laura and John Arnold — whose foundation CEO helped organize the coalition — the campaign will work to build consensus across the political spectrum around the need to pursue a comprehensive set of federal, state, and local criminal justice reforms designed to reduce jail and prison populations and associated costs; end the systemic problem of over-criminalization and over-incarceration, especially among low-income communities and communities of color; ensure swift and fair outcomes for both the accused and the victims; and make communities safer by reducing recidivism and removing barriers faced by the formerly detained or incarcerated. According to the coalition, the current system of mass incarceration and high rates of criminalization costs Americans $80 billion per year and contributes to a cycle of poverty that traps individuals, families, and entire communities.

Partners in the campaign include the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Right on Crime. Christine Leonard, former associate director of legislative affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Vera Institute for Justice, will serve as the coalition's executive director. According to the New York Times, the coalition has secured more than $5 million over three years in initial funding.

"This coalition demonstrates the growing bipartisan moment around criminal justice reform, and the urgency of this issue makes it important to see past any divisions in the fight to make progress," said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. "We all realize that the time to act is now; we are losing too many people, families, and communities — particularly communities of color — to a broken system. We look forward to collaborating across ideological lines on innovative solutions to this nationwide problem."

"Our justice system needs reform," said Leonard. "It's simply too complicated, too big, and too expensive — and all Americans are picking up that tab. We've brought together an amazing coalition of prominent and diverse organizations from across the aisle to help solve the issues facing our criminal justice system."