House Moves Toward Justice Reform

Following the Senate’s lead, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a commission to complete a comprehensive review of the U.S. justice system, and make recommendations for reform.

Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) on Tuesday announced the introduction of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010.

The bill tracks a similar measure introduced earlier in the Senate by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. The Senate legislation awaits action by the full Senate.

The legislation would create a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission charged with undertaking an 18-month study of the nation’s criminal justice system, according to a statement released by Delahunt. The commission would study all areas of the criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies. After conducting its review, the panel would 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 statement adds. The bill has been endorsed by approximately 100 organizations.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is among those groups who support the legislation, and the review that it would enact.

“Our current criminal justice system is both unfair and unsustainable. America’s minorities have been suffering under our unbalanced criminal justice system due to unfair statutes, including our disparate crack powder sentencing guidelines. Judges are forced to use mandatory minimums as a one-size-fits-all solution to complex cases, forcing too many Americans to spend too much time behind bars,” says Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “There is clear evidence that criminal justice reform is needed and a comprehensive review will likely achieve bipartisan support. The ACLU looks forward to continuing to work with both the House and Senate in pushing for meaningful criminal justice reform.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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