Senators Revive Effort to Create Criminal Justice Commission

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Photo by Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Three U.S. Senators on Wednesday reintroduced a bill to create a National Criminal Justice Commission to assess the entire system and propose reforms.

“Our criminal justice system is built on equality and fairness under the law, but too many Michiganders and Americans encounter a flawed system,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who introduced the bill with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

“Our courts are overburdened, incarceration costs are unsustainable and all too often we see strained relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the bill “a long overdue measure. The men and women representing law enforcement understand the need for this legislation, and I appreciate them pushing Congress to move forward on this important issue. I think the nation will be better off with this essential top-to-bottom review of the most pressing issues facing our nation’s criminal justice system.”

Cornyn said that, “Through an objective review system we can modernize and reform our criminal justice system.”

Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill. Other initial co-sponsors are Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The legislation would create a 14-member, bipartisan commission charged with conduct an 18-month, comprehensive review of the national criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice systems, and issuing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices and laws to reduce crime, increase public safety and promote confidence in the criminal justice system.

The Commission would be made up of presidential and congressional appointees, including experts on law enforcement, criminal justice, victims’ rights, civil liberties and social services. Peters, Graham and Cornyn previously introduced similar legislation to establish a commission.

Former Sen. James Webb (D-VA) tried to establish a similar panel. The proposal passed the House and came three votes short of being approved by the Senate in 2011.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of TCR.

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