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