A bill was introduced today in the House that replicates a criminal justice bill already making good headway in the Senate. The National Criminal Justice Commission Act would create a bipartisan commission to study the American justice system and offer recommendations to ease imbalance and, well, injustice.
The ACLU supported the Senate version of the bill and we intend to support the House version as well (provided nothing horrible happens when it’s marked up). Laura Murphy, Director of our Washington Legislative Office, appeared at today’s introduction press conference alongside Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) and a slew of representatives from groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the Drug Policy Alliance.
During the press conference, several members of Congress addressed the ongoing work of Congress to eliminate the broad sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine (that, by the way, we’ve also been working on and we’ll likely to see large steps forward in the coming weeks). The sentencing disparity contributes to our already overrun prison system as do mandatory minimums that force judges to treat cases with a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill out of committee this January and the House is aiming for a quick markup and vote. This proposed commission could have a huge impact on our criminal justice system by giving lawmakers a bipartisan and thorough review of what needs to be done to fix this badly broken system. We’ll be working with the House and Senate to push for passage this Congress. Stay tuned.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post identified Rep. Rooney as a Democrat in the caption. That was incorrect. He is a Republican. (Thanks to the anonymous commenter for pointing out this error.)