Accuracy in Media

A new report on “prison reform” has the fingerprints of billionaire leftist George Soros and his organizations all over it. But the media have tried to portray it as the result of a broad left-right coalition that wants to spend money on schools, not prisons.

Touting the report in advance, the Washington Post reported that “A coalition that includes the evangelical Prison Fellowship Ministries, the NAACP, the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union is working to push changes that they hope will lower the U.S. prison population.” But the American Conservative Union (ACU) was not part of it.

In fact, Ralph Hallow of The Washington Times reported that former ACU chairman David A. Keene said that he did not intend to join the briefing at the National Press Club to release the report and that his affiliations were “misrepresented” in an NAACP press release. The report claims that too many blacks are being sentenced to prison, that the criminal justice system is racist, and that public money ought to be diverted from prisons to schools.

At the press conference, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous admitted that the report, “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate,” does not address how much money in the criminal justice system is being spent on illegal aliens and whether a more secure border would save money in this area. “That’s not in the report,” he said, stepping away from the podium. His press spokesman then abruptly cut off the questions.

Jealous, a far-left ideologue, is a vocal defender of former Obama official and self-declared communist Van Jones, who had created a “Cop Watch” project to monitor, criticize and “resist” police activities. Jones had endorsed a “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.”

Money from Soros financed Jones’ rise to power.

Jealous said, “… I have known Van Jones for more than 15 years. In that time he, as is characteristic of great public servants, has continuously grown and increased his capacity for improving the condition of humanity. Throughout, he has been guided by a powerful sense of patriotism and love for all.”

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform appeared with Jealous at the Washington, D.C. press conference. He has worked with liberal groups such as the ACLU in the past, such as to oppose anti-terrorism measures.

An NAACP press release about the April 7 National Press Club event had noted that David Keene was scheduled to participate as the “former” chairman of the American Conservative Union and was now “of counsel” with the Carmen Group, a special interest lobby. Keene resigned from the ACU in the wake of scandals over financial management and controversies over associations by Keene and his ally Norquist, an ACU board member, with Islamist groups.

But a subsequent press release dropped any mention of Keene and there was no public explanation at the news conference of why he failed to show. Instead, however, NAACP organizers distributed a statement from former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsing “options besides incarceration” and saying he would work with the NAACP on this issue.

Another conservative participating in the event was Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship, whose bio does not gloss over his conviction on corruption charges, saying he “had little concern for the needs of prisoners—until he became one.” Nolan served 33 months in prison. With the assistance of Keene, Nolan tried to make “prison reform” part of the conservative agenda through an appearance at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference.

There is in fact a conservative-oriented “Right on Crime” coalition that includes Nolan, Norquist and several others and declares, “Conservatives are known for being tough on crime, but we must also be tough on criminal justice spending.” However, it also affirms that “We believe public safety is a core responsibility of government because the establishment of a well-functioning criminal justice system enforces order and respect for every person’s right to property and life, and ensures that liberty does not lead to license.”

Like the ACU, the “Right on Crime” group is not listed as being an official part of the coalition with the NAACP and the ACLU and others.

The high incarceration rate decried by various speakers at the news conference reflects the fact that, as the prison population has grown, crime has fallen. No serious expert on the subject denies that the use of prison has been a factor in the decline in America’s serious crime rate. Nolan was quick to say that he does not favor the release of violent offenders from prison.

The NAACP wants to use money spent on prisons instead to be used on schools and teacher unions. “The NAACP calls for the downsizing of prisons and the shifting of financial resources from secure corrections budgets to education budgets,” its report says. It calls for legislatures to “shorten prison terms” for criminals.

The report also proposes legislation “that will close criminal records of certain offenders after they have not committed another crime within a certain number of years,” leaving members of the public potentially in the dark about criminals, including sex predators, in their neighborhoods.

The attack on spending for prisons was anticipated in Michael Tremoglie’s special report for AIM, “How State Budget Battles Could Mean More Criminals Back on the Streets.”

He wrote, “The appeal of ‘prison reform’ is such that some conservatives have expressed support for it. Ultimately, however, it means reducing the number of criminals in prison. While some public money would be saved, the cost in lives and injuries carried out by criminals back on the streets would be difficult to estimate. The public needs to be on-guard against a renewed push to open the prison gates in the name of saving public money.”

Interestingly, the Post article on the NAACP campaign quotes Marc Mauer, executive director of the George Soros-funded Sentencing Project, as saying that “The only way you can really reduce spending is close prisons” but that “There’s a lot of resistance [to that] in some states.”

Through its “Criminal Justice Fund,” the Soros-funded Open Society Institute had poured millions of dollars into a “Sentencing & Incarceration Alternatives Project” that was designed, in part, to limit prison growth and “promote alternatives to incarceration that emphasize rehabilitation and treatment.” Soros has long favored legalization of dangerous drugs and the release of drug offenders back on the streets.

As part of this effort, the Sentencing Project worked to reduce prison sentences for use and possession of crack cocaine.

Robert Rooks, the Director of the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program and coordinator of the project that produced the new report, served as a Criminal Justice Fellow at the Open Society Institute.

In 2010, Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference for the NAACP, was urged to resign by other black leaders when she came out in favor of a state measure to legalize marijuana. Critics of Huffman asserted that that the Open Society Institute had given $700,000 to the national NAACP office headed by Jealous.

In response, Huffman, who had appeared at a national conference of “pot lovers” sponsored by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said her NAACP affiliate had “not received a penny” of the more than $700,000 given to the national organization.

The marijuana legalization measure was defeated by California voters by a 56-44 percent margin.

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