Calling the U.S. criminal justice system “a national disgrace,” two U.S. senators urged for a top-to-bottom review with an eye on reforms aimed at reducing America’s massive prison population, reports AFP. Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, backed by Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel that would conduct an 18-month assessment and offer recommendations for reform. As a candidate, President Barack Obama reacted favorably to a similar proposal from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Webb noted that the U.S. has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. He added that four times more mentally ill people are incarcerated than housed in mental health hospitals. The commission would seek to improve U.S. responses to gang violence, overhaul drug criminalization, improve mental illness treatment, improve prison administration and establish a system to reintegrate prisoners into society, his office said. The 11-member panel would comprise experts drawn from criminal justice, law enforcement, public health, national security, prison management, social services, prisoner reentry, and victims’ rights.