Billionaire George Soros Has A Plan To Transform America's Justice System—And It Just Might Work (VIDEO)

Billionaire George Soros Has A Plan To Transform America’s Justice System—And It Just Might Work (VIDEO)

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is taking a page from the political circus that is the 2016 Presidential election and tweaking it a bit. While other mega-donors pour money into the presidential and congressional campaigns, Soros is changing the American justice system for the better.

How Is Soros Changing The Judicial System?

Revitalizing the justice system has long been a core goal of the progressive movement. Over the last year, Soros has funneled more than $3 million into seven local district attorney campaigns in six states. That sum is more than the total spent on the 2016 presidential campaign by all but a scant few rival super-donors.

Soros has supported African-American and Hispanic candidates for these influential local roles, and all have run on platforms that share his goals. This includes reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders into diversion programs instead of trials.

One such candidate?

Aramis Ayala, a former public defender and prosecutor, who ousted incumbent Jeff Ashton. His jurisdiction covered more than 1.6 million people across two counties in Orlando, Florida. The Florida Safety and Justice group — backed by Soros and his 527 unlimited money group — poured almost $1.4 million into her campaign.

One TV ad from Florida Safety and Justice promotes Ayala as she talks about her  “plan to remove bias so defendants charged with the same crime receive the same treatment, no matter their background or race.” The group zeroed in on Ashton with ads that said he “got rid of protections that helped ensure equal treatment regardless of background or race. … “Take two similar traffic incidents that happened on the same night. A white man got off with a slap on the wrist, while the black man faces prison.”

Indeed, this really is a far-reaching progressive push to find, prepare and finance criminal justice reform candidates for jobs held by incumbents for far too long. And this serves as a bridge to the federal courts.

“The prosecutor exercises the greatest discretion and power in the system,” said Andrea Dew Steele, president of Emerge America, an organization that trains women aiming to become Democratic candidates. “It is so important. There’s been a confluence of events in the past couple of years and all of the sudden, the progressive community is waking up to this.”

So far, Soros has funded  potential district attorneys in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.

Progressives have long been frustrated by big-money donors who easily influence elections on the local level — where cash and media attention are in short supply. Since 2015, Soros has bankrolled a number of state-level super-PACs, electing reform-minded district attorneys in Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, and New Mexico.

And district attorneys have quite a bit of autonomy when it comes to reshaping criminal-justice policies within their communities. They can do this much more efficiently than individual state legislators, congressional representatives, or senators. Because they have unilateral authority to choose the charges to be brought forth and the appropriate sentences to pursue, district attorneys have played an ominous role in the rising rates of mass incarceration in the U.S.

Related: Land of the free to incarceration nation – Now Women are being jailed in record numbers, too! (AUDIO)

Indeed, prosecutors have becoming increasingly draconian during the last three decades. Research by Fordham University criminal-law professor John Pfaff shows that in 1994, about one out of every three arrests resulted in felony charges. By the end of the first decade in this century, it was two out of every three.

What accounted for this rise in felony charges?

We can thank America’s fondness for tough-on-crime policies, The Daily Intelligencer reports. But as light is shown on this, it brings heightened awareness regarding inequities in our flawed judicial system. And it also brings increased pressure on state budgets — and that’s fostered bipartisan interest in shrinking incarceration.

However, 85 percent of American prosecutors run unopposed, and this means it may take a while for change to be felt at D.A.’s offices.

Reform groups have for years been advocating criminal justice policies and legislation aimed at reducing incarceration rates. Progressives have long donated to policy-focused non-profits, including the Soros-chaired Open Societies Foundation. The OSF works to change drug policy and advocates criminal justice reform. It has supported other reform groups such as California’s Alliance for Safety and Justice.

Prosecutors have a huge say in the charges and sentences defendants face. But even so, reform efforts haven’t traditionally focused on harnessing this power.

“They are often a very invisible part of the criminal justice system and the political system,” notes Brenda Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which is part of the . “Many people can’t name their district attorney. It’s not an office people think about a lot.”

Research commissioned by Carter’s group in 2015 showed that 95 percent of elected local prosecutors in the U.S. are white and overall, three-quarters are white men. It also touched on the earlier-mentioned research that found 85 percent of these prosecutors run for reelection unopposed.

“I found that to be shocking, and I think people are waking up to the untapped potential for intervention in these seats to really change the day-to-day realities of criminal justice,” she said. “It’s been really gratifying for us to see the research taken up and run with by different groups around the country.”

It shouldn’t be too surprising that some right-wingers aren’t happy with Soros’ liberal philanthropy.

Right-wingers love to hate Soros

Those who oppose his candidates have attacked the billionaire, saying that his influence has unbalanced the scales of local elections. Some go as far as saying that he’s making residents less safe.

“As a candidate and citizen of Caddo Parish, if an outsider was that interested in the race, I wanted to know exactly what he had in mind for the criminal justice system if he were to win,” said Dhu Thompson, a Louisiana attorney who lost the D.A.’s race to James Stewart, who was backed by Soros in 2015.

Soros contributed more than $930,000 — over 22 times the local median household income — to the group that was promoting Stewart.

“I know some of his troubling opinions on social issues, especially the criminal justice system,” Thompson said. “I’ve never known him as an individual who was very strong on some of our crime and punishment issues. I felt it was very detrimental to the safety of Caddo Parish, and that’s why I took such a strong stand against him.”

The butthurt is tangible here, isn’t it?

Soros has his detractors. This right-wing site loses its mind over the fact that the Hungarian billionaire has helped fund MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America and gets all bent out of shape because Soros has helped Planned Parenthood and one of my favorites — the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This rich man isn’t perfect, to be sure. But he’s a vast improvement over Donald Trump, who is busy alienating people of color.

You can find out more about Soros in the video below.

[brid video=”61362″ player=”5260″ title=”George Soros’ Quiet Overhaul of the U.S. Justice System”]

Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Physicians for Human Rights

raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

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raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App