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Republicans Filibuster Criminal Justice Reform


This is simply astounding. I’ll let Jim Webb explain, as I’m just about speechless at how crazy this is.

Senator Jim Webb issued the following statement today after Senate Republicans blocked passage of legislation to establish a bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission. Over the last three years, Senator Webb’s legislation has won support from more than 100 organizations, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Sentencing Project, the NAACP, the ACLU and Prison Fellowship.

Today Senate Republicans blocked an important opportunity to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective. Their inflammatory arguments defy reasonable explanation and were contradicted by the plain language of our legislation. To suggest, for example, that the non-binding recommendations of a bipartisan commission threaten the Constitution is absurd.

“But we have been here before: In 2007, our soldiers and Marines were being deployed again and again, resulting in rising mental health problems and falling retention rates. On two occasions, I offered legislation requiring active-duty troops to have equal time at home as on deployment. On both occasions, Republican Senators blocked this sensible, time-honored policy. We did not back down. We kept fighting and we changed the debate. Today proper dwell-time rotations are a top priority at the highest levels of the Defense Department.

“Likewise, over the last five years we have put the issue of criminal justice reform on the national agenda and changed the tone of the debate. When I first raised the issue in 2006, it was believed to be political suicide. But after years of building the case for reform, we have earned the trust and support of advocates across the philosophical and political spectrum. We will not back down. We will keep fighting for a comprehensive review of the justice system, with the help of the thousands of sheriffs, police, mayors and justice advocates who have joined us in pressing for reform.

Thank you, Jim Webb, please keep on fighting. As for the Republicans who filibustered this? Let’s just say, this is a family-friendly blog and leave it at that. More on the “flip.”

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act would create a blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission of experts charged with undertaking an 18-month top-to-bottom review of the nation’s criminal justice system and offering concrete recommendations for reform.  It was first introduced March 26, 2009, and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 21, 2010, with 39 bipartisan cosponsors. On July 28, 2010, it passed the U.S. House of Representatives, with the support of Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), now Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. At the end of last year, the legislation was incorporated in the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which was blocked for unrelated procedural reasons. Senator Webb reintroduced his bill on February 8, 2011. It was blocked by Republicans in the Senate today by a vote of 57-43 (60 votes required for passage).

What They’re Saying about the National Criminal Justice Commission Act


Chief Michael J. Carroll, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) President, 2/24/2011:

“For more than twenty years, the IACP has advocated for the creation of a commission that would follow in the footsteps of the 1965 Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice… The IACP believes that it is imperative that the National Criminal Justice Commission Act be approved in a timely fashion. For far too long our nation’s law enforcement and criminal justice system has lacked a strategic plan that will guide and integrate public safety and homeland security’s effort in the years ahead.”

Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police, 2/16/2011:

“The recommendations made by the 1965 commission provided the basis for a legislative overhaul and modernization of the criminal justice system… Law enforcement has changed a great deal in the last few decades. We believe that establishing a national commission…will only help law enforcement officers do their jobs more effectively, more, efficiently and more safely.”

Sheriff B.J. Roberts, President of National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), 2/15/2011:

“Emerging issues in law enforcement, such as acts of terrorism and threats to homeland security, make the creation of a national commission all the more necessary to ensure law enforcement…has the tools and knowledge necessary to adapt to the continually evolving justice system. The NSA commends Senator Webb on his leadership on this critical issue and we look forward to working with him to pass S. 306 during the 112th Congress.”


Charles Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship, 7/22/2009:

“I write this from the perspective of a conservative who has always been comfortable as a reformer… I don’t believe this is an ideological issue at all, but one on which people of good will, conservative and liberal alike, could join forces to make prisons more effective, humane and successful… We will certainly give you all the help we can to build support for your legislation.”

Brian W. Walsh, The Heritage Foundation, 6/11/2009:

“Reform experts who are serious about criminal-justice reform should draw encouragement from Senator Webb’s efforts to date to reach out to elected officials on both sides of the aisle and to criminal-justice reform advocates across the conservative-to-liberal spectrum.”

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, 4/20/2009:

“A new approach to crime prevention is necessary and the time for reform is upon us. The commission created by this legislation would establish an organized and proactive approach to studying and advancing programs and policies that promote public safety, while overhauling those practices that are found to be fundamentally flawed… We strongly urge passage of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act.”

Professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School, 6/11/2009:

“The comprehensive, timely, and important bill proposed by Senator Jim Webb will go a long way toward addressing some of the severe inequities in the criminal justice system. This effort should be pursued with great vigor to ensure that we not only hold offenders accountable, but that we implement criminal justice policies that are sensible, fair, increase public safety and make judicious use of our state and federal resources.”

More information about the National Criminal Justice Commission Act is available here.

The text of Senator Webb’s amendment is available here.


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