Charles Koch
Charles Koch

The criminal justice system just found itself a surprising ally in Charles Koch, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Koch Industries.

Koch has a long history of backing conservative efforts but says that due to his own experiences with the courts, he’s become aware of glaring inequities.

In an interview published in the Wichita Eagle this weekend, Koch opened up about a case in which a federal grand jury indicted Koch Industries on 97 counts of environmental crimes. Eventually, they dropped all but one of the charges only after the company agreed to pay a large settlement.

According to Koch’s chief counsel Mark Holden, the case made the billionaire industrialist wonder “how the little guy who doesn’t have Koch’s resources deals with prosecutions like that,” the Eagle reports.

While Koch and his brother David usually back candidates who have fiscally conservative views, he recently told Barbara Walters in an interview that he is a “social liberal” and it appears he has been quietly backing criminal justice reform for years. Koch promises to ramp up those efforts in the upcoming year.

He told The Eagle

Over the next year, we are going to be pushing the issues key to this, which need a lot of work in this country. And that would be freedom of speech, cronyism and how that relates to opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Koch strongly believes that sentencing could benefit the most from reform, calling for rulings “more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.” He has also integrated his efforts with progressive philanthropist George Soros and the American Civil Liberties Union to address the issue head-on.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has praised Koch’s most recent donation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), funding training for attorneys who represent those in need.

“That’s a good thing to hear,” Holder told The Marshall Project. “People from very different places along the ideological spectrum understanding that we have to make our criminal justice system more fair. There’s a justice gap. And to hear that the Koch brothers would be contributing money in that way is something that I think should be applauded.”