WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation authored by Senator Jim Webb and Rep. Bill Delahunt that creates a blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission charged with undertaking a top-to-bottom review of the nation’s criminal justice system.
“It has been over four decades since we conducted a comprehensive review of our criminal justice system,” said Delahunt. “Today our prison population is expanding at an alarming rate, with costs to the taxpayers that are unsustainable. The bill passed tonight will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money. I am proud to have joined with Senator Jim Webb on this issue. His tireless efforts championing this bill will help ensure quick passage.”
“I want to congratulate Congressman Delahunt for guiding the National Criminal Justice Commission Act to success in the House,” said Senator Webb. “This bill will take a long overdue, comprehensive review of our criminal justice system – taking a look at what’s broken and what works. With tonight’s success, I look forward to swift legislative action in the Senate.”
Despite the fact that crime rates have declined nationally over the past two decades, the U.S. currently incarcerates more than 2.3 million individuals—the highest rate in the world. Studies show that by 2011, prison expenditures will cost taxpayers almost $75 billion.
In an effort to combat these alarming trends, the commission will study all areas of the criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies. After conducting the review, the Commission will make recommendations for changes in, or continuation of oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice. The bill has been endorsed by approximately 100 organizations. In the House, it is co-sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D - VA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Tom Rooney (R-FL).
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010, was introduced in the Senate as S. 714 by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). The bill has received widespread bipartisan support and has 39 cosponsors in the Senate, including Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Ranking Member Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Judiciary Committee member Senator Orrin G Hatch (R-U).
The passage of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act is the latest in a series of legislative victories for Delahunt. Earlier this month, President Obama signed the Financial Services Regulatory Reform Act, which included provisions establishing a Consumer Financial Product Protection Bureau, a legislative proposal that Delahunt introduced last March.
In May, President Obama signed Delahunt’s Travel Promotion Act. The FY 2011 Defense Department Authorization bill included language allowing no-cost transfers of military bases, such as the South Weymouth Naval Air Station. Over the winter, Congress created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the causes of the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008. This legislation was introduced in the House by Delahunt last fall.