KBH on the National Criminal Justice Act

What is the National Criminal Justice Act? It’s a commission proposed by Jim Webb (D) to evaluate the shortcoming in our criminal justice system. From Senator Webb.

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process. This legislation has already garnered wide bipartisan support in Congress and from interest groups representing a range of backgrounds and political viewpoints.

Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:

With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation’s prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration.

Being a concerned citizen I emailed KBH and asked her to support this measure. As a former prosecutor I have seen the destruction caused by overzealous law enforcement. Arrest, prosecution, probation, and a criminal conviction are especially devastating on the thousands of young adults we prosecute annually.

It’s about time we evaluated the investment of our tax dollars and the forfeiture of our liberty. I’m pretty sure we can find a better way forward than the status quo. A blue ribbon panel is a great way to start the conversation.

One thing I can say about KBH is that she responds fairly quickly to my emails. I really appreciate a prompt and courteous Senator. My only criticism is that the response says nothing about her position, but she seems eager to listen to my views on criminal justice reform. I’ll be sure and forward those ideas to her post haste.

From KBH-

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the National Criminal Justice Act of 2009. I welcome your thoughts and comments.
On March 26, 2009, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced S. 714, the National Criminal Justice Act of 2009. This act would establish the National Criminal Justice Commission, which would undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. The Commission would focus on incarceration policies, prison violence, and prison administration. After examining the current system, the Commission would be required to submit a public report to Congress and the President.
S. 714 has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, on which I do not serve. Should this legislation come before the full Senate, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind.
I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Senator Cornyn hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I’ll post his response when available.

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