March 31, 2017

National Criminal Justice Commission

A group of senators reintroduced legislation March 8 to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission to conduct an 18-month comprehensive review of the nation’s criminal justice system and make recommendations for improvement in the system. S. 573 - sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) - is similar to legislation the senators introduced in 2015. The 14-member bipartisan commission created by the legislation would be made up of presidential and congressional appointees, including experts on law enforcement, criminal justice, victims’ rights, civil liberties and social services. The group’s recommendations would seek changes in oversight, policies, practices and laws to reduce crime, increase public safety and promote confidence in the criminal justice system. “Our criminal justice system is built on the pillars of fairness and equality, but too many Americans see growing challenges in our justice system ranging from overburdened courts and unsustainable incarceration costs to strained relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Peters said. “Creating the National Criminal Justice Commission is a critical step to help reduce crime, improve public safety and promote more equitable criminal justice practices.” The last comprehensive review of the criminal justice system was conducted in 1965 when President Johnson created the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. The 1965 commission’s report offered over 200 recommendations, including the creation of the 911 system, establishment of research organizations like the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and improved training for law enforcement. The ABA has supported the creation of a National Criminal Justice Commission since adopting policy in 2009 and has urged enactment of legislation since bills were was first introduced during the 111th Congress. In correspondence to the House and Senate in 2010, the ABA stated that the need for comprehensive review is clear, and discussion must include all those who have a tremendous stake in the justice system. The letters called the commission, which continues to have the support of a broad coalition of criminal justice organizations, an important step in “developing evidence-based and cost-effective solutions to improve our criminal justice system and increase public safety.”

 

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