Powerful New Bipartisan Coalition Pushes For Justice Reform
Date:  02-24-2015

This impressive big-money organization is looking for "real reform."
It’s a blockbuster. It’s called the Coalition for Public Safety (CPS), and its bringing a new rush of money and clout behind the push for criminal justice reform. Well funded and savvy, CPS is an amalgam of Republicans and Democrats who have laid down the gauntlet, announcing to government that if they won’t fix American’s broken criminal justice system, then CPS will.

The organizations funding CPS are among the biggest and the best -- and they’re from both sides of the political spectrum. Weighing in against America’s lock-em-up mentality are none other than the Center for American Progress, the American Civil Liberties Union on the left, and Americans for Tax Reform (Grover Norquist) and Koch Industries on the right. One would think you couldn’t get stranger bedfellows, but utter frustration with America’s stance as Incarceration Nation of the World, this unlikely combination of powerful interests is likely to accomplish what government could not.

One of the key backers of the new coalition is the Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation. This foundation, well-funded and brain-rich, has been a key mover behind the push for social impact bonds and pay-for-performance contracting. The Arnolds seek to create “systemic reform” in each of their initiatives, boldly striking out for the implementation of evidence-based initiatives to advance social service reform. The Coalition also has the backing of the increasingly influential Right on Crime organization headed by Marc Levin.

CPS has caught the crest of the wave decrying the huge cost of over-incarceration and the devastation it has wreaked on minority communities. And, although the Left and the Right members of this unlikely coalition have different priorities, each sees a reason that reform needs to happen -- and happen now. The Right says that criminal justice is bankrupting government coffers. The Left says that criminal justice is bankrupting the social fabric. Either way, reform appears to finally be in the cards.

The New York Times broke the news about CPS in its front-page article on February 19. CPS published its own release on the same date, and The Nation followed up with a thoughtful perspective on how this new movement will play out.