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Charles Koch Talks Criminal Justice Reform Philosophy and Partnerships

July 27, 2021

min read

From supporting bipartisan legislation to advocating for and helping to secure the release of Weldon Angelos, and beyond, a new Forbes article shares more about Charles Koch’s vision for criminal justice reform and the varied partnerships to make these efforts happen.

For example, Charles says, the federal prohibition on cannabis has infringed on personal freedom and only added to America’s mass-incarceration problem.

“It should be the individual’s choice,” Charles said. “[Prohibition] is counterproductive. It ruins people’s lives, creates conflict in society and is anti-progress. The whole thing never made sense to me.” Paraphrasing 19th-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat, Charles said, “For a law to be respected, it must be respectable.” Nearly 7 in 10 Americans says cannabis should be legal nationwide, according to a recent Gallup survey.

Cannabis legalization is only one area of criminal justice reform in which Charles and his organizations have been active in recent years, including advocating for the landmark federal First Step Act in 2018. The criminal justice reform effort led to the recently founded Cannabis Freedom Alliance, supported by Charles, to release a paper earlier this month calling for the federal legalization of marijuana. The paper includes a call to ensure that those who were previously involved in the illicit market have the opportunity for a second chance to contribute legally to society.

“By criminalizing [cannabis], it has huge negative manifestations, not only for the individuals who get trapped in that system, but for society,” he says. “We want a society that empowers people to realize their potential and contribute, but with these laws you block out millions of people.”

That view is consistent with Koch Industries’ long-running criminal justice reform advocacy and actions. For years, Koch Industries has led coalitions with other major employers to remove barriers for opportunities, including banning the box asking about criminal history and considering applicants based on their potential, not excluding them solely because of their record. That vision is present in the company’s pro bono initiative, which empowers lawyers and nonlawyers across Koch companies to support worthwhile projects, such as the Midwest Innocence Project.

Read the full article on Forbes.