Cut50 is an initiative to “cut the prison population and crime in[sic] 50 percent in the next 10 years” by advancing left-leaning criminal justice policies. It is a project of the left-leaning advocacy group Dream Corps, which was founded by CNN contributor and former advisor to the Obama Administration, Van Jones.
Cut50 receives donations from names major foundations including the left-wing Open Society Foundations (associated with George Soros) and the Ford Foundation, and the more centrist Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Cut50 is an initiative of a left-leaning 501(c)(3) organization called Dream Corps. Dream Corps was founded in 2014 by Van Jones, a former “Special Adviser for Green Jobs” in the Obama White House and a current CNN contributor.
Jones worked with fellow activists Jessica Jackson Sloan and Matt Haney to create Cut50, which is demanding that the United States reduce its prison population by 50 percent within the next ten years. Jackson Sloan claims Cut50 can achieve its goal by focusing less on “tough on crime” policies, and more on “smart safety solutions.”
Cut50 works with “formerly and currently incarcerated individuals.” Notable Cut50 partners include Shaka Senghor, who served 19 years for murder, and Michael Mendoza, who was convicted for the role he played in a gang-related murder.
Cut50 lists Mendoza and Senghor on the front page of its #StillNotFree petition, which aims to change the “abuse of technical parole and probation violations.” Cut50 focuses heavily on the case of recording artist Meek Mill, who is accused of repeatedly violating his probation. Cut50 has suggested that Mill’s continued punishment is due to the “poor practices” of probation and parole and that his treatment is broadly representative, not only the effect of a single controversial judge.
Dignity for Incarcerated Women
Cut50 created its “Dignity for Incarcerated Women” campaign in 2017 with the aim of improving the conditions for female prisoners by calling for state policy changes in the United States. The campaign, which is led by formerly incarcerated women, has seen some success since its inception: Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Connecticut have passed laws aiming to improve prison conditions for female prisoners in the respective states. Some of the changes the bills introduce include the prohibition of shackling female prisoners while giving birth, increased access to healthcare products, increased support for drug addiction treatment, and increased support for pregnant prisoners and new mothers.
Georgia, New Jersey, Arizona, and California have similar bills in the review process on various legal levels.
Cut50 lists the American Conservative Union Foundation, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Survivors Guide to Prison, and We Are Here as partners of the campaign. Richard Branson’s corporation, the Virgin Group, has also stated it supports the campaign.
First Step Act
Cut50 has also circulated a petition endorsing Trump White House aide Jared Kushner’s “First Step Act.” Cut50 sees the act as a positive step towards the reformation of the prison system and highlights various reasons to support it.
Day of Empathy
Cut50 also organizes an annual “Day of Empathy,” which asks community members impacted by criminal justice to share their experiences with their state lawmakers. Multiple organizations around the United States supported Cut50’s Day of Empathy, including the Delaware Center for Justice, CARE Coalition, The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and Direct Action for Rights and Equality.
Cut50 is an initiative of Dream Corps and receives most of its funding from the organization although according to its website, Cut50 has other funding partners including, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, Porticus, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund. Cut50 also names the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Koch Industries, and the Charles Koch Institute as collaborators.
On its website, Dream Corps acknowledges receiving major donations from Abigail Disney, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Gingrich Foundation, and U.S. Bank. Dream Corps also received a grant for $200,000 from the Open Society Foundations in 2016.
Van Jones is the co-founder of Dream Corps and its Cut50 initiative, and is the co-founder of the nonprofit Color of Change. Jones served as the special adviser for green jobs during the Obama Administration and is a CNN contributor.
Jones resigned as the Obama administration’s “green jobs czar” after receiving criticism from Republicans due to his association with 9/11 terrorist attack conspiracy “truthers,” and for calling Republicans “a**holes” before being appointed to his position within the administration.
Jones helped organize an Oakland, California rally in 1999, calling for the retrial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and death row inmate who shot and killed a police officer in 1981. After the demonstration, the protesters at the rally were accused of timing the event to disrupt a long-planned dialogue between Oakland police and local youth.