George Soros has made a name for himself as one of the most successful investors in history. Over 40 years, he’s managed to return upwards of 25 percent to his investors. This legendary performance has earned him an exalted place in the financial world.
But George Soros is also a determined activist who has always fought for what he believes is right. One of his pet causes has been the stark social inequalities which have persisted throughout most of American history. One area in which Soros has sought to make a real change is the criminal justice system. But Soros has taken a different tack than most other criminal justice reform advocates. He has announced his determination to change things from the ground up.
One of the most powerful positions in the U.S. criminal justice system, which most people severely underappreciate, is that of the district attorney or prosecutor. In the United States, prosecutors often hold de facto power to prevent people from going to jail or to send them there. One of the most salient disparities in the criminal justice system is the rate at which minorities are incarcerated. Since the era of Jim Crow, blacks have been sent to jail at rates far surpassing that of whites, even though in some cases they do not commit more crimes.
One explanation for this inequality in sentencing outcomes is the discretion the prosecutors wield over those defendants who are involved in cases which they handle. Most people are aware that prosecutors hold the discretion to decline to charge defendants with a crime, where the prosecutor deemed the alleged crime to be either not serious enough to warrant charges or the evidence insufficient to win a conviction.
But many people are unaware of the de facto power prosecutors often hold to decide who goes to jail. Although the power of conviction is supposed to be reserved for judges or juries alone, prosecutors, through the power of the plea bargain, can often intimidate defendant into pleading guilty to crimes that ultimately send them to prison. The plea bargain is a tool designed to alleviate the flood of cases which bog down the US criminal justice system. However, in many cases, prosecutors are tempted to use the plea bargain as a bludgeon to rack up high rates of convictions for politically-motivated reasons. Oftentimes those prosecutors are most likely to be elected who have the highest rates of sending their constituents to jail. George Soros established the Open Society Foundations.
Soros recognizes this reality and has set out to elect prosecutors who are social justice minded and who, thus, are less likely to improperly send minority defendants to prison. Soros views this ground up reformation of the criminal justice system as the most expedient means to effect meaningful and lasting change.
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