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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

National Criminal Justice Commission!

The last time a presidential commission studied criminal justice was in the 1960s! And things have steadily gotten worse in criminal justice since then.

Think significant racial bias so that today prisons are literally being built on the "backs of blacks."

Think that there are MORE African Americans in prison than in college.

Think 20% of state prison inmates are drug offenders and more than half of federal prison inmates are drug
offenders, even as drugs are still widely available and drug use remains unchanged.

Think how we've largely abandoned rehabilitation, meaning offenders get out meaner, stronger, and more dangerous than when they went in.

Think of the unprecedented increase in prison populations even as crime falls.

And on and on.

Got this in an email from Senator Jim Webb (D-Va) today:

Bringing Fairness to the Criminal Justice System

Last Friday in Fairfax, I co-hosted a national forum on “Undoing the Effects of Mass Incarceration,” organized with George Mason University and the Prison Fellowship.   There, I addressed the critical need for criminal justice reform in our country and my efforts to tackle this national problem.

Today more than 7 million people are under the supervision of our criminal justice system, including 2.3 million in America’s jails and prisons -- the highest rate of reported incarceration anywhere in the world.   However, gang activity continues to threaten many communities and Americans report feeling less safe than they did a few years ago.

As a nation we spend $68 billion every year just to lock up people, many of whom are non-violent offenders. We lose billions more in lost productivity due to ineffective re-entry programs. The high costs of incarceration divert scarce financial resources from the very programs that help police fight crime.

By working together, we can be smarter about whom we incarcerate, improve public safety outcomes, make better use of taxpayer dollars, and bring greater fairness to our criminal justice system.

To achieve this, I introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act in 2009, which would initiate a full review of the nation’s criminal justice system and offer recommendations to Congress for reform.  The bill was endorsed by organizations from across the political spectrum, including major law enforcement and civil rights groups. The House of Representatives approved the bill last year with overwhelming bipartisan support. As the new Congress begins, I am committed to seeing this important legislation signed into law.

You can read more about the National Criminal Justice Commission Act by clicking here. 

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