With YouTube Video
U.S. Sen. Jim Webb’s legislation to comprehensively review and overhaul America’s criminal-justice system won a major victory on Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with bipartisan support.
With the backing of 34 senators and dozens of organizations representing a broad spectrum of the criminal-justice community, Webb’s National Criminal Justice Commission Act next goes to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Webb’s legislation, which was introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009, and would create a blue-ribbon commission of criminal justice experts, also received the endorsements today of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle for restructuring our criminal-justice system is very encouraging for our country,” said Sen. Webb of the legislative success. “We are taking an inclusive, broad-based approach here, and I believe that’s the best way to move our country away from a system based on ideology and fear, and toward what is fair and what keeps us safe.”
YouTube Video | Webb reform wins important Senate vote (1:57)
Cosponsors of the legislation, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Chairman Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), shepherded the bill through the committee, with praise from leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Chairman Leahy said, “I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws. But we must also work to prevent crime and improve the reentry process to reverse the dangerous cycle of recidivism and violence. The findings of a National Criminal Justice Commission will help give us the information we need to do that. Sen. Webb has worked hard over the last several months to make this legislation responsive to concerns raised by law enforcement, state and local government officials, and I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee advanced this legislation today.”
“Sen. Webb has done a prodigious job here, consulting with some 100 organizations, and has established a record showing the need for the crime commission,” said Specter.
“Sen. Webb has spent an extraordinary amount of time working with people on this committee, and he has certainly worked well with people on our side of the aisle,” said cosponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. “His goal is a worthy one to have a comprehensive review of our criminal-justice system. I want to acknowledge his hard work and his effort. I look forward to supporting this bill, and I think it would be good for the country.”
“This commission could be a significant commission,” said Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee. “I believe that, as it is framed today, the bill allows the commissioners, without advocacy language, to make the recommendations that they think would help the criminal-justice system perform better. Sen. Webb has worked very hard on this. This commission provides us an opportunity to comprehensively examine our criminal justice system, and maybe we can make it better.”
Sen. Webb and his staff have engaged in a dialogue with more than 100 organizations as diverse as the Heritage Foundation, the Sentencing Project, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the CATO Institute, the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, American Correctional Association, the Prison Fellowship, the American Probation and Parole Association, and many other stakeholders across the political spectrum.