George Soros follows new, innovative strategy in quest for criminal justice reform

One of the ongoing social problems in the United States today is the wildly disproportionate rates at which minorities are incarcerated throughout the country. This has been an ongoing problem since the days of reconstruction. Today, in many states throughout the country, blacks are up to 10 times as likely to have a serious felony record as whites. For many, this represents a devastating failure of the United States criminal justice system to overcome its legacy of racism and oppression. Read more about George at The New York Times.

One man, George Soros has decided to set about doing something. Through his powerful philanthropic organization, The Open Society Foundations, Soros has begun making strategic donations to the campaigns of sheriffs, judges and district attorneys, in the hope that the criminal justice system can be reformed from the ground up. Soros realized that many of the major efforts to reform the U.S. criminal justice system over the decades had failed, due to the fact that they simply had no traction to effect real change. Soros’ genius lies in the fact that he has recognized the immense power that certain individual positions in the criminal justice system have. One of these is the district attorney, who quite literally holds sway over people’s lives.

In the United States, district attorneys have, perhaps, more power than any other actor in the criminal justice system. This includes police chiefs, Supreme Court justices and even entire legislatures. While the reasons for this are slightly complicated, the basic force behind the disproportionate power the district attorney’s currently wield in the United States is based on one tool: the plea bargain. The plea bargain has evolved as a way for the court systems, which would otherwise be completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cases, to effectively and efficiently process their huge case loads. It is estimated by many scholars that up to 95 percent of all criminal cases in the United States are disposed of through the plea bargain. This phenomenal number of cases that are resolved by the use of this single tool is the main factor in making district attorneys more powerful than any other position within the criminal justice system.

While it’s clear to see that district attorneys wield a great deal of power over the people who come before them, due to their ability to decide who does and does not get charged with crimes, the plea bargain adds a level of power than many people failed to fully comprehend. Through the use of what’s known as case loading, the act of charging a defendant with a number of extremely serious crimes, which collectively may carry penalties of up to life in prison, the district attorney can compel almost anyone to plead guilty to crimes, even in cases where those crimes were not committed by the defendant. Read this story at Politico.com about George Soros.

By replacing district attorneys with progressive liberals, Soros is making big changes to the system, where the rubber meets the road

The Selfless Gesture Of Jim Larkin And Michael Lacey

As much as efforts are being made to eliminate the issue, human rights are being abused in every part of the world in different ways. Things would have been much worse if not for the emergence of different groups of selfless people that have been fighting against abuse of human rights. Read more: About Lacey and Larkin- Frontera Fund

The founders and members of some of these groups need to be appreciated and recognized all the time so as to motivate them even more. They dissipate not only their time, but also their hard earned money into the cause. A very good example is the Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin that were settled with the sum of $3.75million for being unlawfully arrested on October 18, 2007 by Joe Arpaio, the then Maricopa County Sheriff. They are Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

Being unlawfully arrested isn’t why they are celebrated but the fact that they dedicated their settlement to fund migrant rights organizations all over Arizona. What a selfless gesture that should be emulated. The two of them were whisked away from their homes in the middle of the night like common criminals and they were jailed. The fund is meant to support different groups that advocate for migrant, human and civil rights in Arizona.

One of the groups that have been advocating for civil and migrant rights is American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU of Arizona). The group was established in 1959 and it has successfully defended the right of minorities several times. One of such cases is the overturning of the state law that banned multi-racial marriages in 1960.

The group also led the defense of Ernesto Miranda, a laborer who was convicted of rape without convincing evidence. He was only convicted based on his confession to the police. The police obviously misconstrued the confession. The case earned Arizona police some serious warning that they must always read before interrogating criminal suspects

The group initiated a lawsuit in 2007. It is the famous case of Melendres V. Arpaio. ACLU also secured a federal judge ruling to install a monitor in the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio to contain his racially biased and unconstitutional policing.

Another notable feat achieved by ACLU is defending the rights of free speech of day laborers. It also won a highly celebrated case that resulted in the repeal of an unconstitutional law denying bail to immigrants. Another feat worthy of mention is its being a member of the legal team that challenged the Arizona law that stipulates that working with fake documents is a deportable offence. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/about-lacey-larkin-frontera-fund/relevant-links/

In a bid to intensify and consolidate their efforts, ACLUs of San Diego and Arizona combined forces to work more on Border Litigation. The merger was done in 2013. The worrisome number of cases of constitutional violations along the border necessitated the merger. Later, the merger was extended to New Mexico and Texas.

It is noteworthy that ACLU achieved so many legal feats in its cause. The few cases mentioned above were just randomly chosen. They are just a small fraction of ACLU’s achievements. Not everybody can be a member of the group but everyone can contribute his or her own quota in funding the group. They obviously need funds to carry out more legal defense.