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Charles Koch Foundation is spending big on an ASU criminal justice center. Why?

Pedestrians walk near the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2018./Photo by Richard Martinez/ The State Press

 

The most recent donation is one of a series of controversial grants made to University programs

By Mia Armstrong | The State Press

In July, ASU announced the Charles Koch Foundation had awarded a $6.5 million grant to fund the newly minted Academy for Justice, a research coalition based out of the University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The Academy says the grant will help bridge the gap between academics and policymakers in order to promote positive change in the criminal justice system. But critics say it represents another attempt by one of the country’s most prominent political donor networks to exert its influence.

How did the Academy for Justice come to be?

The idea behind the Academy for Justice first came to Erik Luna, the center’s director and founder, at a summit on criminal justice reform hosted by the Charles Koch Institute in 2015. There, Luna said he came to realize the disconnect between academia and the policy community in the field of criminal justice. Scholarly research is often inaccessible or unavailable to the people who could, in theory, use it most, he said.

Luna said he was inspired to try to address the problem he had identified — to “make what is known in the academic world available to policymakers and the public.”

He did so with the help of a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, which he used to commission, edit and publish a four-volume report titled “Reforming Criminal Justice.” The report includes writing from scholars around the U.S. and addresses topics including criminalization, policing, trials and incarceration processes.

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