Jonathan K. Henry
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. The organization works to create an open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process. Common Cause is embarking on a project that will shed light on the role of sheriffs in the country’s growing mass incarceration, those who fund their campaigns, and how these interrelated issues have taken on particular significance amid the COVID-19 crisis. The Leading Edge Fellow will work closely with Common Cause’s mass incarceration program manager to investigate and expose who donates to sheriffs’ political campaigns, and why. Common Cause’s preliminary research has shown that, too often, it is the very corporations that donate to sheriffs which ultimately serve to benefit the most from prisons and jails not adopting appropriate decarceral measures or implementing virus mitigation measures. During a pandemic, when lives are dependent on being distant from the general population, locking up potential offenders in jails, seems particularly egregious. The fellow’s research will educate voters on the impact of “pay-to-play” politics in their communities, and help grassroots organizers advocate for public financing of local elections.