The proposal by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) to create a National Criminal Justice Commission will be discussed up tomorrow by the Senate crime and drugs subcommittee, now under the leadership of Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA). Testifying will be Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, Pat Nolan of the Prison Fellowship, Harvard law Prof. Charles Ogletree, and Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation. Webb proposes an 11-member panel to produce recommendations within 18 months on reducing incarceration in the United States.
Leaders of some other criminal justice and government organizations have urged Webb to expand the commission’s charter to the entire criminal justice system. At a meeting yesterday of criminal justice organization representatives in Washington, D.C., several advocated more focus on state, county, and local agencies that handle most criminal cases. Whether a broader study can be completed within 18 months is problematic, however. Tomorrow’s hearing should provide some clue’s to the commission’s prospects. Several key Judiciary Committee members have signed on to Webb’s bill, including Democrats Specter, chairman Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, and Ted Kennedy.