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Charles Koch's views might interest Virginia residents

It has often been said that once someone goes into the criminal justice system, it is hard to get out of the system. That is a concept that it seems as though billionaire Charles Koch learned firsthand. It took Koch tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, a $10 million settlement and six years to have one case resolved.

His experience with the criminal justice system started in 1995 when his company, Koch Petroleum Group, was indicted on 97 felonies. Those federal indictments were based on alleged environmental crimes at one of the company's oil refineries. Eventually, all the charges except one were dropped. The settlement we mentioned before is how that single charge was settled.

That experience prompted Koch to take a look into the criminal justice system. Koch's conclusion is that there are too many laws that are leading to over-criminalization. He concluded that there are too many nonviolent offenders being prosecuted.

For the past decade, he has been supporting the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in an effort to help stop the rights of the poor being stripped. With the tough stance against crime that has occurred in recent decades, the incarceration rate has increased. Since the 1980s, the incarceration rate has tripled.

The chief counsel for Koch says that the weight of that tough stance has fallen on minorities. That is something that Koch says he will work on this year. He says the criminal justice system needs reform so that criminal sentences are more appropriate for the crimes.

When you think about the vast number of people who are involved in the criminal justice system, it is easy to see why change is needed. Around one out of every four adults in the country has a criminal record. That makes it difficult for ex-offenders to get jobs, which in turn can hurt the economy.

As long as the criminal justice system stays as it is, anyone facing criminal charges anywhere in the country, including Virginia, must fight for his or her rights. This includes presenting a defense. Working with someone familiar with the criminal justice system might help these defendants to learn the best way to show their side.

Source: Kansas.com, "Charles Koch’s views on criminal justice system just may surprise you" Roy Wenzl, Dec. 27, 2014

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