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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative adds conservative group as partner on criminal justice reform

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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization, announced Monday that they are partnering with several groups working on criminal justice reform. The organization touted the “incredible work” done by some of their partners on reforming the criminal justice system “in new and creative ways.” (2015 file photo/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, announced Monday that they are partnering with several groups working on criminal justice reform, including a conservative group.

The announcement

In a Monday Facebook post, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative wrote that “The U.S. imprisons more people than any other country, despite evidence that these incarceration levels are not making us safer. We’re committed to doing our part to support work that enhances public safety and ensures a fairer criminal justice system.”

The organization touted the “incredible work” done by some of their partners on reforming the criminal justice system “in new and creative ways.”

“We are pleased to add our support to three more groups taking very different but equally important approaches to reforming the criminal justice system,” they wrote.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative listed The Center for Criminal Justice Reform, a project of the American Conservative Union Foundation, as one of the organizations, praising them for “mobilizing public support for reforms based on conservative principles.”

“Our work is just getting started, but we’re proud to partner with and continue to learn from such an effective group of leaders as they bring about a better, fairer, and more just system,” they concluded.

The ACUF Center for Criminal Justice Reform

Pat Nolan, the director of the ACUF Center for Criminal Justice, told TheBlaze in an interview the American Conservative Union Foundation established the Center for Criminal Justice Reform in response to growing support for criminal justice reform among conservatives.

“As the power of the federal government has grown and the number of laws has expanded, the people’s liberty has been eroding pretty fast.”

Nolan said that there are over 4,000 federal crimes, which criminalize things much more “esoteric” than murder, rape, or theft.

“We’ve been working on changing those policies at the state and federal level,” he said, “so they reflect a narrower scope of federal authority.”

Nolan argued that prisons are for “people we’re afraid of, but we’ve been filling them with people we’re just mad at.”

He said that conservatives recognize that the ability to imprison citizens is arguably the greatest power the federal government has because it strips them of freedom. He said it is necessary in cases of violent crime, but other types of crimes often don’t warrant stripping an individual away from their jobs, families, and community.

Conservatives also believe in human dignity, he argued, adding that criminals are still “children of God, created in His image.”

Criminal justice reform based on conservative principles, he said, would include more job training for real jobs in the private sector upon release, and education services for inmates, as well as family friendly visitation policies.

He cited a straw poll taken at the Conservative Union Foundation’s 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that found 92 percent of attendees at the conference support efforts to reform the criminal justice system, with 62 percent responding that they “feel strongly” about it.

The partnership

Nolan said that as the Center for Criminal Justice Reform gained recognition for its work, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative took notice and offered them a partnership.

He said that in addition to providing the effort with a grant, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is “coaching us on how to effectively use social media in order to reach conservatives.”

“That’s really exciting to me,” Nolan said, “I know that’s the most efficient and effective way to spread the word, so it’s wonderful they’re going to coach us.”

He said that his goal is to make a website that would be a “hub” for conservatives who are passionate about criminal justice issues.

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