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. Don_M says:

      Thank you so very much Mr. Webb! I am proud that and happy that you are a Senator for my State – Virginia! I don’t know if you will ever see this post but I want you to know that I’ll be trying to keep you in office!

      Also, I emailed my Senators urging their suppor using this URL:

      and encourage all of you reading this to do the same. You will get a pre-written message that you can edit.

      It seems to me that all our efforts are truly starting to make a dent in this war!

    2. Yoni says:

      “The times they are a changing”

    3. toddbass says:

      hey look its our government, acting like they care about us. lets see if they actually get this senate to do something good while they still have this majority.

    4. The Oracle says:

      Great! Get a move on full legalization. Don’t waste any time after the summer recess of Congress. Results of the Act may be on multiple subjects, and let’s not wait for the results of the entire report’s recommendations to come out. Congress is known for taking baby steps and not being competent to act en large. The nation needs the money something bad! With the taxes collected from cannabis Congress could lower business taxes so they could create jobs, in addition to maintaining public services rather than laying off infrastructure personnel. They could fix the ailing pensions for state workers. Fully fund education, and don’t eat the seed corn for the next crop.

    5. Mike says:

      To anyone that uses the link to send the pre-written letter to their senator…

      Please edit the end of the letter and correct the date from June 27th to July 27th.

    6. Judy Browne says:

      A critical and realistic review of U.S. drug policies and federal justice policies regarding drug use and distribution are long, long overdue. Prohibition has not worked FOR anyone, it has cost the taxpayer untold amounts of money from the street level through incarceration and beyond.
      The U.S. has been deprived of a very useful and eco-friendly medicinal, food, and industrial plant in cannabis. I urge you to support Senate Bill 714. I urge you to do EVERYTHING you can to restore the legal cultivation and harvesting of cannabis again in this country and respectfully ask that you encourage colleagues to do the same.

      Thank you,
      Judy Browne

    7. Tony says:

      This could to lead to something if the correct people are put in charge and if every one helps make it public knowledge.

    8. Drew says:

      Great news!

      But I keep wishing for another way to rephrase “drug offender” since I don’t like it. What is offensive are those evil laws, and that other people get bent out of shape over what people put in their own bodies. It’s as though they had a right to burden me (and us all) with their ignorant hang-ups and hem us in, and worse!

      It’s reached a point that when I now hear “drug offender” the thing that pops in my mind are the real offenders, the Thug Addicts who crush others, the Holier-Than-Thou-Congregation, the False Prophets of Prohibition, and the others who are only making things worse.

      I have a few ideas, but this is probably not the page to brainstorm them. 🙂

    9. claygooding says:

      The fact that it passed unanimously speaks volumes and it should pass through the senate the same way because for anyone to object or vote against it would label them as bought and paid for. Everyone realizes the need for reform so having a panel look into the situation is a must but the problem comes when the commission starts making suggestions.
      That is when the claws come out and the bought and paid for legislators earn their money. All the commission can do is make suggestions and congress can ignore them,the same way they have ignored every commission that has investigated marijuana.

    10. annonymous for Ga says:

      This is excellent news…..EXCELLENT!!!