Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has introduced a bill to set up a bipartisan blue ribbon commission to study, evaluate, and make recommendations for reforming America's criminal justice system, The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009. In his floor speech introducing the bill, Senator Webb said
"America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. With five percent of the world's population, our country houses twenty-five percent of the world's prison population. Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980. And four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals. Our neighborhoods are at risk from gang violence, including transnational gang violence. We should be devoting precious law enforcement capabilities toward making our communities safer.There is great appreciation from most in this country that we are doing something drastically wrong. And I am committed to getting this legislation passed and enacted into law this year."
Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) is the principal Republican cosponsor. Senator Webb will be hitting the media this weekend to discuss the need for a top to bottom review and overhaul of our criminal justice system. He will be on NPR's All Things Considered at 5:00 pm on Sunday and authored Parade's cover story, "What's Wrong With Our Prisons?"
Or, maybe we should ask, what's right with our prisons?