Soft Eyes for Solutions
A restorative justice and rehabilitation model is also practiced as a Christian mission by the Prison Fellowship. The group was founded by the late Chuck Colson, a former Nixon White House counsel who served a prison sentence because of the Watergate scandal. According to a 2022 annual report, Prison Fellowship raised $61 million and introduced a new tagline: “Seek justice. Love mercy. Restore hope.”
For many years, the group has been supported strongly by Christian and center-right donors. Since 1998, it has received tens of millions of dollars from donors such as the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and charities associated with their family, the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, the National Christian Charitable Foundation, God’s Gift, the Anschutz Foundation, the William E. Simon Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
The Chan Zuckerberg affiliates have given at least $1.6 million to Prison Fellowship since 2019. The Ford Foundation gave $300,000 in 2021. Since 2016, Public Welfare, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Network for Good have given more than $600,000 combined.
Similarly, the R Street Institute is a right-center group with many policy areas and total 2020 revenue of $12.6 million. It has received at least $1.4 million in criminal justice reform funding since 2019 from the Chan Zuckerberg affiliates.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is an alliance of former police officers who advocate for an end to the War on Drugs, better training for officers, stronger drug treatment programs, early intervention to prevent crime, sentencing and bail reform, stronger community policing, body cameras, increased police transparency, and more. Speaking with the authority of those who have worn the badges, LEAP has at least one reform idea that should appeal to nearly any reasonable person.
The last IRS report available shows LEAP’s 2020 total revenue was $1.6 million. The Soros-backed FPOS has given them $820,000 since 2016. LEAP’s 2022 annual report shows total revenue of $6.5 million.
In season four of The Wire, HBO’s excellent police drama, Det. Bunk Moreland advises his new partner to have “soft eyes” when examining a murder scene. “You got hard eyes,” warns Bunk, “you’re staring at the same tree . . . missing the forest.”
Hard eyes look upon an incarceration rate that rivals communist Cuba and see an America overfilled with bad people that must be caged, rather than bad policy that should be changed. Hard eyes looking from the other direction demand “defund the police” because they see only the bad officers making bad news, rather than mostly good people quietly working under the same bad policy.
In between, groups and donors from all partisan persuasions (and none in particular) are doing good work, often the same work, because they’re looking at the problem with soft eyes.
This article was published in the May/June 2023 issue of Capital Research magazine.