Celebrity bounty hunters Duane “Dog” and Beth Chapman have been in California lobbying against a bill that would abolish the current cash bail system for most defendants in the state. The California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017, also known as Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), is co-sponsored by several so-called “criminal justice reform” groups that have received funding from George Soros’ international grantmaking network.
“I think that the legislators … have been duped,” Beth Chapman said during a press conference last week. “The criminal element of our community is laughing at them and thinking, ‘how stupid are these people to let all of us run free?’”
Mrs. Chapman, who became famous while co-starring in reality television shows with her husband, is now the president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. She represents 15,000 bondsmen combatting what she perceives to be a nationwide “attack” on their industry and a threat to public safety.
Soros has been on a criminal justice reform spending spree of late. Last year, he contributed $2 million to the effort to defeat Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He has poured millions more into other local races, including a $1.45 million investment to elect a progressive district attorney in Pennsylvania earlier this year. The campaign to eliminate money bail is part of a broad reform strategy.
“This bill is part of a national movement, a recognition that the way we have been handling pretrial processes in California and across the country is not fair or just,” said Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who co-authored SB 10 after working with a broad coalition to craft the proposal. “Whether you can go free before a trial is determined by the size of your wallet and not the size of your public safety risk, and that’s not the way it should be.”
Many of the groups co-sponsoring Hertzberg’s bill have direct ties to Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF), including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Californians for Safety and Justice, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Essie Justice Group. Together, they have spent years laying the groundwork for a variety of reforms targeting California’s criminal justice system.
Californians for Safety and Justice, commonly known as Safe and Just, has been at the forefront.
As Inside Philanthropy reported:
In 2013, OSF made a $1,000,000 grant for the Tide’s Center’s Californians for Safety and Justice project. This project provides the infrastructure for a “multi-pronged, multi-year campaign to reduce corrections populations in the State of California.”
Safe and Just’s executive director “was chosen by the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Fund and other big funders to head the newly conceived organization in 2012,” according to The Nation.
The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, also a co-sponsor, is the host organization of a Soros Senior Advocacy Fellow. OSF gives him money “to use digital media storytelling as a way to change the narrative about people returning from prison and to help support efforts to reform the criminal justice system.”
The Essie Justice Group also receives Soros funding. The nonprofit launched in 2014 after its founder was awarded an OSF fellowship to “establish an organization designed to help women with incarcerated loved ones become leaders in the struggle against mass incarceration.”
That same year, OSF awarded a grant of $50 million to the ACLU to reform criminal justice policies.
“There are few organizations in the United States in such close alignment with our values and criminal justice reform goals as the ACLU,” said Christopher Stone, President of the Open Society Foundations. “We are confident that our support of the already advanced state-level ACLU operations can truly transform thinking about public safety, move progressive and innovative legislation forward, and restore the trust of communities hit hardest by the overuse and abuse of our criminal justice system.”
Before joining Soros’ foundation, Stone led the Vera Institute of Justice. Studies from Vera — which has also received grants from OSF — have been cited by California politicians as evidence of a flawed pretrial bail system. According to its website, “Vera works in partnership with local, state, and national government officials to create change from within.”
“I know California will not be duped into this ‘hug a thug’ program,” said "Dog" Chapman. “We’re all into rehabilitation. Get the guy out and make him change his life; not hope he will.”
SB 10 will go before the Assembly Public Safety Committee on July 11.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.