Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) says he is determined to get his bill to create a national commission to study criminal justice enacted by Congress early next year. Approval of the measure by the Senate Judiciary Comittee has been delayed as other legislation and nominations have taken priority. In the meantime, Webb has had what he called “intense discussions” with 100 interest groups, many of them law enforcement organizations that believed the initial bill was focused too much on prison issues and too little on police. The bill has been modified, he says.
Webb spoke to the American Constitution Society conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C. He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had indicated that the bill likely would be a Democrat Top 10 proposal for 2010. Webb said President Obama supports the measure. The commission would be required to file a report within 18 months. Webb expects it would take several years after that to enact any recommended reforms. Webb acknowledged that criminal justice is mainly a state and local issue, and he said the commission would not urge changes that would have federal officials dictating criminal justice policy. Asserting that high incarceration and recidivism rates indicate a “broken” justice system, Webb called his proposal “a once-in-40-years opportunity,” alluding to President Lyndon Johnson’s criminal justice commission of the 1960s.