Monday, April 17, 2017

Billionaire Pushes Veterans Court California Expansion With Own Funds

Billionaire’s transformation from real estate to criminal justice reform
San Francisco Chronicle
By Laurel Rosenhall
April 16, 2017
Almost half the counties in California have veterans courts. Hughes wants to see them expand statewide and has offered to pay $100,000 to cover half the cost of the study.
A cattle-ranching billionaire headed into Gov. Jerry Brown’s office the other day with redemption on his mind.

Redemption for prisoners who wind up behind bars because their own tortured childhoods led them to lives of crime. Redemption for veterans who bring home wartime scars that cause addiction and violence. And redemption, perhaps, even for himself — born into privilege, born again as a Christian, and determined to make a difference with his wealth.

“If you listen to the stories of the men and women who have been incarcerated, it’s horrible what they’ve been through,” B. Wayne Hughes Jr. said as he stood outside Brown’s office.

“And when you look at the amount of money we’re spending ... we’re getting horrible results. All we’re doing is making better criminals.”

Hughes, 58, was in Sacramento to lobby for a bill he’s backing to help veterans who have committed low-level crimes. It’s a noncontroversial bill with a small price tag, so his meetings in the state Capitol weren’t so much about making a hard sell. Instead, they marked one more step in Hughes’ transformation from Republican real estate magnate to Libertarian advocate for criminal justice reform.

The rancher, whose father founded the Public Storage company, gave nearly $1.3 million to Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that turned nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, allowing some prisoners to be released. He also helps fund a prison ministry and runs a ranch near Paso Robles that provides faith-based mental health treatment for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Hughes’ interest in helping the downtrodden began when he came to Christianity about 20 years ago and evolved when he met Chuck Colson, the former Nixon administration official who pleaded guilty to Watergate crimes.
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