When it comes to fixing our country’s broken criminal justice system, there is no wrong time to act, and there is always room for more people and companies like Koch to work toward a solution.
That’s why Mark Holden, Koch’s senior vice president and general counsel was at the White House this Wednesday with Democrats, Republicans, and members of law enforcement as President Donald Trump announced his support for the FIRST STEP Act, a critical piece of legislation that will reduce crime and recidivism, save money, and help those who have served their time get a second chance in life.
On Thursday, Holden participated in a discussion with David Plouffe, head of policy and advocacy at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and former campaign manager and Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, on the importance of passing and implementing “clean slate” legislation across the country.
Holden answered a few questions about his work on the issue and what’s next for criminal justice reform in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
Why does Koch support the FIRST STEP Act?
This is a moral, constitutional, and fiscal issue. Nearly 700,000 Americans will return to our communities from prison this year, but close to 70 percent of them are expected to go back in the next five years. Nearly all—95 percent—of state prisoners will get released one day. We believe that rehabilitation begins on Day One of incarceration, not a month out or on the day of release.
By making our sentencing laws more just and improving rehabilitation programs in prisons, the FIRST STEP Act will reduce crime and recidivism, save money, and enable people seeking a second chance to recover, reenter their communities, and contribute to society. This legislation has support from both sides of the aisle, and that’s because criminal justice reform transcends politics. It’s just common sense.
What has Koch done to advocate for criminal justice reform?
Koch Industries is supporting Safe Streets & Second Chances, a four-state pilot program in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas, that is rehabilitating and equipping people with the tools they need to return home and become productive members of our communities.
It’s also why, years ago, Koch elected to “ban the box” on employment applications. We believe that everybody who has served their time and is seeking another chance at life should get it, and we are committed to working with anyone and everyone who is similarly motivated.
So, what’s the next step?
In an overwhelming bipartisan show of support in the House, the FIRST STEP Act passed 360-59 in May. The Fraternal Order of Police has put its support behind the legislation, as has President Trump.
Now, it’s important that senators take the next step to advance the legislation by bringing it to the floor for a vote. As we’ve seen in states like Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, the best way to improve public safety is with policies that are smarter on crime and soft on taxpayers.
Separately, I joined David Plouffe of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to advocate for “clean slate” legislation and implementation during a discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress.
What’s “clean slate” legislation?
According to some estimates, as many as one in three Americans has a criminal record. At both the state and federal levels, we think there should be a way for people—who have served their time and qualify—to have their digital criminal records automatically cleared so they can get back on the right track and improve their lives.
Similar legislation has already been signed into law in Pennsylvania, and we’re hopeful more states will follow.