Organization Trends

Soft Eyes for Criminal Justice Solutions: Status Quo Supporters

Soft Eyes for Criminal Justice Solutions (full series)
Nonprofit Donations | A Tale of Four Cities | The Soros Prosecutors
Status Quo Supporters | Big Winners | Soft Eyes for Solutions

Status Quo Supporters

While it’s easy to critique the outcome in some of the cities where Soros has planted new prosecutors, it’s also easy to misinterpret his motives. Not without reason, he believes there are equally extreme attitudes in the criminal justice bureaucracies he’s trying to overturn.

In June 2020 several years of steady increases in New York police spending came to an end when then-Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D) announced he wanted to cut the police budget by $1 billion. According to Manhattan Institute research, real (inflation-adjusted) spending on police in New York City was lower in 2022 than in any year going back to 2008, and it represented a smaller percentage of the city budget than in any year since at least 1980.

Already with a low murder rate compared to the nation, New York City had even fewer homicides in 2022 than it did in 2020.

So, was it a good idea for New York City to cut the police budget?

Back in the summer of 2020, DeBlasio’s proposal to take $1 billion out of policing was met with predictably brutal reviews from the city’s police unions. The president of the Police Benevolent Association said that “the Mayor and the City Council have surrendered the city to lawlessness,” and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association president announced the city had already become the “Wild West.” The president of the Captains’ Endowment Association said the “elected officials have raised the white flag.”

Last year was the worst year for overall felony crimes in New York City since 2006 – up 23 percent over 2021. Despite a 10 percent decline in homicides, felonious assaults went up 15 percent, and rapes 17 percent.

Not a great development, but neither was it close to the “Wild West” and surrender to “lawlessness” predicted by the union bosses. Still one of the safest big cities in America, New York City spent much less on policing and didn’t even get close to as bad as the mayhem happening in Chicago.

There are five unions representing the New York police, each differentiated by rank: policeman, detectives, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. In 2020 their combined operations revenue was $48 million.

According to a Ballotpedia survey, most states have police unions, as do most major cities.

Many also have prison guard unions. In November 2021, with the New York state prison population down sharply, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced she would close six facilities, each operating under capacity, for an estimated $142 million annual savings. The head of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association denounced the decision.

“Morale is very bad among our membership,” said the NYSCOPBA president. “Violence has gone through the roof, continually, each and every year, with an ever-decreasing inmate population.”

The 2020 revenue of the state prison guard union was $19 million.

Like Big Labor bosses everywhere, these statements demonstrate that police and prison union leaders stridently advocate for the most money and jobs they can get for their membership.

Maybe violence in New York prisons really was as awful as that union chief said. Maybe it wasn’t.

But imagine if all crime ceased to exist and every inmate had been set free. In that scenario it is barely an exaggeration to expect that police and prison union leaders would continue to predict Doomsday and murderous mayhem over every nickel cut from their annual funding.

Just as private-sector unions organize in opposition to management, government unions organize in opposition to taxpayers. And their agenda is about public policy as well as public finance.

Not without reason, we don’t permit the U.S. military to unionize.

A November 2020 Reuters report analyzed police union contract renewals in 100 of the nation’s biggest cities over the preceding five years. The general conclusion was that police unions were “keeping contract protections that make disciplining cops difficult” and that in “addition to retaining protections won in earlier contracts, police unions in some cities gained new ones in recent negotiations that are helping fend off reform efforts.”

A recent report from the Illinois Policy Institute, a limited-government think tank, found that police union contracts in that state made it extremely difficult to discipline and remove abusive and problem officers and that “Illinois state law actually allows union contracts—including the provisions hindering investigations—to overpower other state laws.”

The collective political and economic muscle amassed by the nation’s police and prison unions makes them overwhelmingly the most well-funded influencers over American criminal justice policy.

Then, there are private, for-profit prison firms such as GEO Group. Like police and prison union bosses, their bottom line is paid by the taxpayers.

GEO’s 2020 revenue was more than $2.3 billion. The firm contributed more than $2.6 million to federal, state and local politicians in 2020.

GEO’s political activity report carefully explains that the company has always promoted their role as a “trusted service provider” that has “never advocated for or against, nor have we ever played a role in setting, criminal justice or immigration enforcement policies, such as whether to criminalize behavior, the length of criminal sentences or the basis for or length of an individual’s incarceration or detention.”

As with police and prison unions, we can probably trust them without being told that they’ve “never advocated” for shorter or fewer criminal sentences.

In the next installment, nonprofits have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on criminal justice reform in recent years.

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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