US Senators Introduce National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 Bill would “undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system”

Washington, DC: Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), along with fifteen co-sponsors, have introduced legislation in Congress to critically evaluate America’s drugs and prisons policies. The bill, Senate Bill 714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As introduced, the proposal would establish a blue-ribbon commission to “undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system; make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices; and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.”

Specifically, the Commission will examine “current drug policy and its impact on incarceration, crime and violence, sentencing, and reentry programs, [including] an analysis of the general availability of drugs in our society, the impact and effectiveness of current policies on reducing that availability and on the incidence of crime, and in the case of criminal offenders, the availability of drug treatment programs before, during, and after incarceration.”

Writing this past weekend in Parade Magazine, Sen. Webb stated: “Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. … Justice statistics … show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses.

“America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. … It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. Additional information about Senate Bill 714 is available from NORML’s Take Action Center at: