Comments in U.S. Senate by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, September 28, 2010



Madam President, first, I would like to say that Senator Schumer and I are sharing 30 minutes today–we are going to have to do it in divided time–to speak about concerns with respect to the relationship of the United States with China and where we need to move forward.

Before I do that, I wish to express my hope that my colleagues on the other side will allow a vote on the National Criminal Justice Association Commission Act which I introduced a year and a half ago after 2 years of hearings. We have bipartisan support on this bill. The identical version of this bill has passed the House of Representatives already. We have met with more than 100 different organizations, from our office. We have a buy-in on the necessity of this bill from people across the political spectrum and the ideological spectrum. The three major criminal justice associations strongly back this bill, as do the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and the NAACP. There is no controversy on this bill. It passed the House by a voice vote.

I certainly hope that before the end of this year, we will see this national commission come into place. It is 18 months of getting the finest minds in America to come together and examine all aspects of our criminal justice system so we can do two things: one, reduce mass incarceration in this country but also reduce the fear in our communities with the present rate of crime.

There are two charts for people to look at to see why we need to move forward on this legislation. The first is to look at what has happened to the incarceration rate in this country. From 1980 up to today, it has gone off the charts. We have more people in prison than any other country in the world. We have 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s known prison population. At the same time, any survey you look at, you will see that three-quarters of the people of this country feel less safe than they did a year ago. These two realities do converge in the need to examine our entire criminal justice system.

I say again to the one or two people on the Republican side who are not allowing this to come to a vote, this is not a controversial measure. The top three corrections associations in this country want to see it happen, as do people on the other side.

I hope we can get a vote before the end of the year on this legislation and start fixing our criminal justice system.

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