When Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced S. 306, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011 (NCJCA) this past Tuesday, he took the time to give a shout out to the ACLU’s work in support this important piece of legislation. This bill will create a bipartisan commission to study the United States’ broken and dysfunctional criminal justice system and offer concrete recommendations to alleviate imbalances and injustices. The NCJCA is currently supported by 20 senators, including Judiciary Committee members Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
The ACLU supported the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010 during the 111th Congress, which successfully passed the House of Representatives. The bill was also approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but was never brought to the Senate Floor.
Passing the NCJCA remains a priority for the ACLU in the 112th Congress, and – as always – we will continue advocating for the need to review and reform our badly broken criminal justice system. Today, there are over 2.3 million men and women in prisons throughout the US, which incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. Despite this astronomical rate of incarceration, more than half of all people released from prison re-enter the system within three years. In other words, the current system over-incarcerates without increasing public safety and has a devastating impact on the individuals, families, and communities that find themselves entangled in our justice system (and disproportionately impacts communities of color and the poor).
Reform of the criminal justice system isn’t something that only those on the political left support – even prominent conservatives are coming around to the fact that something’s gotta give, and the NCJCA provides the ideal opportunity to begin doing so in a bipartisan manner. We’ll be working with both the House and Senate to pass this important piece of legislation, which will help ensure that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, operates fairly, and is cost effective.