Congress: House Passes National Criminal Justice Commission Act

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 29, 2010

    On Tuesday, Congressional Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 5143, the House version of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010.

    NORML first blogged about this federal legislation back in November, and encouraged supporters to contact their members of Congress in favor of this much-needed reform. This week the House did their part. Now it is up to the Senate to do theirs.

    Said the measure’s House sponsor, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA). “Today our prison population is expanding at an alarming rate, with costs to the taxpayers that are unsustainable. … (This) bill passed … will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money.”

    House Bill 5143 is a companion bill to S. 714, championed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). Senate Bill 714 will establish a `National Criminal Justice Commission’ to hold public hearings and “undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, including Federal, State, local, and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies. … The Commission shall make findings regarding such review and recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.”

    In January, members of the Senate Judiciary passed S. 714. The measure awaits action by the full Senate. Hopefully, this week’s House vote will spur the Senate into action.

    It’s been many years since a federally appointed commission has taken an objective look at American criminal justice policies, and it’s been nearly 40 years since federal lawmakers have undertaken a critical examination of U.S. drug policy. Sen. Webb articulately explains why this examination is long overdue.

    America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. … The United States has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.

    … Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. … Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity. … African-Americans — who make up about 12% of the total U.S. population population — accounted for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.

    … It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system.”

    NORML supporters can play a role in this ‘fix’ by contacting their U.S. Senators and urging them to support Senate Bill 714, The National Criminal Justice Commission Act.

    35 Responses to “Congress: House Passes National Criminal Justice Commission Act”

    1. […] … It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system.” […]

    2. Johnny Rivets of Louisiana says:

      Hello my fellow humans, I was looking around for the legalization of marijuana, after having a horrible wisdom tooth pain and going over to a friends who uses the medicinal grade product. He and I smoked, I instantly felt little to no pain. Unlike pill form pain relief, this wonderful plant acts almost instantly and relieved my pain 4 hours, long enough for me to drive home and go to sleep without the ache. In my search I came across this site and I must say that the U.S.A. needs this to be legalized now more than ever in purpose of religion, spirituality, medical issues, economy, and peace on earth.

    3. Daryl says:

      I’m glad that I know that both Senators from Virginia (where I vote) will be supportive of this bill in the Senate.

    4. […] Tuesday the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 5143, their version of The National Criminal Justice System Act of 2010. House Bill 5143 is a companion […]

    5. Roberta says:

      This is very good news for every American. The prison system is a business and is sometimes run by private business who want to keep as many inmates as they can. That our Congress & Senate are taking this cause up and bringing the inequality of our prison system compared to world populations is amazing. They are actually standing up to big business and taking the side of what’s good for the citizens. Amen brothers & sisters. A long time coming and much needed.

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