Congress: House Passes National Criminal Justice Commission Act

On Tuesday, Congressional Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 5143, the House version of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010.

NORML first blogged about this federal legislation back in November, and encouraged supporters to contact their members of Congress in favor of this much-needed reform. This week the House did their part. Now it is up to the Senate to do theirs.

Said the measure’s House sponsor, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA). “Today our prison population is expanding at an alarming rate, with costs to the taxpayers that are unsustainable. … (This) bill passed … will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money.”

House Bill 5143 is a companion bill to S. 714, championed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). Senate Bill 714 will establish a `National Criminal Justice Commission’ to hold public hearings and “undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, including Federal, State, local, and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies. … The Commission shall make findings regarding such review and recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.”

In January, members of the Senate Judiciary passed S. 714. The measure awaits action by the full Senate. Hopefully, this week’s House vote will spur the Senate into action.

It’s been many years since a federally appointed commission has taken an objective look at American criminal justice policies, and it’s been nearly 40 years since federal lawmakers have undertaken a critical examination of U.S. drug policy. Sen. Webb articulately explains why this examination is long overdue.

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. … The United States has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.

… Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. … Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity. … African-Americans — who make up about 12% of the total U.S. population population — accounted for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.

… It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system.”

NORML supporters can play a role in this ‘fix’ by contacting their U.S. Senators and urging them to support Senate Bill 714, The National Criminal Justice Commission Act.

35 thoughts

  1. Thank you so very much Mr. Webb! I am proud that and happy that you are a Senator for my State – Virginia! I don’t know if you will ever see this post but I want you to know that I’ll be trying to keep you in office!

    Also, I emailed my Senators urging their suppor using this URL:

    and encourage all of you reading this to do the same. You will get a pre-written message that you can edit.

    It seems to me that all our efforts are truly starting to make a dent in this war!

  2. hey look its our government, acting like they care about us. lets see if they actually get this senate to do something good while they still have this majority.

  3. Great! Get a move on full legalization. Don’t waste any time after the summer recess of Congress. Results of the Act may be on multiple subjects, and let’s not wait for the results of the entire report’s recommendations to come out. Congress is known for taking baby steps and not being competent to act en large. The nation needs the money something bad! With the taxes collected from cannabis Congress could lower business taxes so they could create jobs, in addition to maintaining public services rather than laying off infrastructure personnel. They could fix the ailing pensions for state workers. Fully fund education, and don’t eat the seed corn for the next crop.

  4. To anyone that uses the link to send the pre-written letter to their senator…

    Please edit the end of the letter and correct the date from June 27th to July 27th.

  5. Senator,
    A critical and realistic review of U.S. drug policies and federal justice policies regarding drug use and distribution are long, long overdue. Prohibition has not worked FOR anyone, it has cost the taxpayer untold amounts of money from the street level through incarceration and beyond.
    The U.S. has been deprived of a very useful and eco-friendly medicinal, food, and industrial plant in cannabis. I urge you to support Senate Bill 714. I urge you to do EVERYTHING you can to restore the legal cultivation and harvesting of cannabis again in this country and respectfully ask that you encourage colleagues to do the same.

    Thank you,
    Judy Browne

  6. This could to lead to something if the correct people are put in charge and if every one helps make it public knowledge.

  7. Great news!

    But I keep wishing for another way to rephrase “drug offender” since I don’t like it. What is offensive are those evil laws, and that other people get bent out of shape over what people put in their own bodies. It’s as though they had a right to burden me (and us all) with their ignorant hang-ups and hem us in, and worse!

    It’s reached a point that when I now hear “drug offender” the thing that pops in my mind are the real offenders, the Thug Addicts who crush others, the Holier-Than-Thou-Congregation, the False Prophets of Prohibition, and the others who are only making things worse.

    I have a few ideas, but this is probably not the page to brainstorm them. 🙂

  8. The fact that it passed unanimously speaks volumes and it should pass through the senate the same way because for anyone to object or vote against it would label them as bought and paid for. Everyone realizes the need for reform so having a panel look into the situation is a must but the problem comes when the commission starts making suggestions.
    That is when the claws come out and the bought and paid for legislators earn their money. All the commission can do is make suggestions and congress can ignore them,the same way they have ignored every commission that has investigated marijuana.

  9. I sent letters when this story first came out. Glad to see it is making progress, for a couple of months I thought it was a goner.

  10. Mr. Webb’s statement is showing us the results of 4 decades of this war. He doesn’t mention the thousands of people that have died in countries south of the border due to our country’s drug policy. History will show this as a very dark era of America. Thanks to Mr. Webb it may be coming to an end.

  11. I believe Jim Webb is an angel, and we can thank God there are so many more voices being raised each day against our insane drug policies, and prison-mill mentality. I just came across a brilliant anti-prohibition animated short on Youtube which says it all. It’s called: The Flower. A very powerful visual message.

  12. This scares me more than encourages me… Makes me wonder where else they plan to get weird in the crazy nightmare we call a justice system.

  13. Why bother? I’ve emailed them before and they’ve replied personally to tell me that I am an idiot and they are going to ignore me. Talk is cheap. I’m done talking.

  14. Thank you Senator Webb for yet another commission that will find that marijuana should not be criminalized. Maybe Obama, unlike Nixon, will actually listen to them…. then again… maybe not.

    Here’s hoping.

  15. The people will legalize it before Congress ever does ANYTHING. They’re driven by money. We’re driven by common sense. It’s up to us to end prohibition once and for all.

  16. Brinna Nanda, you are an angel too! – takes one to know one I guess.
    I do feel a “fair wind” blowing.
    Now is the time, cannabis nation to push harder than ever before. The walls are cracking, people are still suffering in backwards states, and prison – for a kind FLOWER! Keep up the pressure, keep telling the truth!
    Prohibitionist liars are trying to keep a beachball (cannabis truth) under water, and I sense them getting tired! Blessings to you Brinna, Paul Armentano, Russ Belville, and all you other brave, out of the closet justice warriors…Grateful…!

  17. @18 Anonymous – Well, if you’re done talking then what are you planning to do??? What exactly did they say when they told you that you are an idiot???

    I believe we are closer than ever to achieving our goals and need to do everything possible to win every battle possible in this war the Govt elite declared on us. I think it is very important to tell them exactly what we want and to do it often!

  18. Ya well we can wait 2 to 4 years for the outcome of this too… lol This is BS and there just playing games again like normal…

  19. Well damn, it’s about fucking time!! Does this mean that we’ll need to wait ANOTHER 40 years for them to pass it, or can we hope to capitalize on their latest trend of NOT READING legislation and just have them zip it through into Law before the November Elections?

    Let’s hope for the latter 🙂

  20. Great vido Brinna Nanda, thank you. This may be off subject, but has anyone thought about what ending mental illness in all it’s many and confusing forms could mean for the better good in the world today. What kind of people start wars? Want to take a bite out of crime, end domestic violence stop child abuse, and in general make our streets and work-places safer. Think about it good and sane people.

  21. This is very good news for every American. The prison system is a business and is sometimes run by private business who want to keep as many inmates as they can. That our Congress & Senate are taking this cause up and bringing the inequality of our prison system compared to world populations is amazing. They are actually standing up to big business and taking the side of what’s good for the citizens. Amen brothers & sisters. A long time coming and much needed.

  22. I’m glad that I know that both Senators from Virginia (where I vote) will be supportive of this bill in the Senate.

  23. Hello my fellow humans, I was looking around for the legalization of marijuana, after having a horrible wisdom tooth pain and going over to a friends who uses the medicinal grade product. He and I smoked, I instantly felt little to no pain. Unlike pill form pain relief, this wonderful plant acts almost instantly and relieved my pain 4 hours, long enough for me to drive home and go to sleep without the ache. In my search I came across this site and I must say that the U.S.A. needs this to be legalized now more than ever in purpose of religion, spirituality, medical issues, economy, and peace on earth.

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