Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jim Webb Going...But Not Without His Bill?

Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.), a champion of criminal justice reform, is retiring after just one term in the U.S. Senate, he announced today.  But before he leaves at the end of 2012, he's got some unfinished business:  passing the National Criminal Justice Commission Act.  The bill was first introduced in 2009 but was not passed by Congress, and yesterday, he introduced a virtually identical bill, S. 306, which you can read about in FAMM's press release here.

The National Criminal Justice Commission would do a top-to-bottom review of our system -- including looking at our sentencing policies.  What it reports back to Congress would lay the groundwork for something we haven't had much of in federal sentencing policy:  evidence-based, data-grounded, cost-effective reforms that make us do what works instead of what is popular, fear-inspired, or appears "tough on crime."  And surely 20 years and an overstuffed, high-cost prison system have shown us that mandatory minimums don't pass muster.

Such a Commission could not come at a better time.  Getting control of the federal budget means making everything work a little harder, better, and cheaper (see this good article on that concept) -- and the criminal justice system and prison system are no exceptions.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

There is only one problem with this legislation. It does NOTHING to fix the broken criminal justice system. It only authorizes a study that will last up to 18 months. After that then what? How much longer to enact anything in the way of meaningful legislation that will actually fix something? This bill is much ado about not very much I am afraid but will be a good swan song for Webb.