US House approves commission to reform criminal justice system

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday passed a bill [HR 5143 materials] that would create a bipartisan commission [press release] charged with reviewing the US criminal justice system. The commission would also propose reforms and promote the reduction and prevention of violence and crime. According to House sponsor Bill Delahunt (D-MA) [official website], the US incarcerates 2.3 million people, with prison costs soon reaching $75 billion. Delahunt praised the passage in the House, asserting that the bill "will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money." Currently pending in the US Senate [official website], the legislation has widespread bipartisan support and 39 co-sponsors. Senate sponsor Jim Webb (D-VA) [official website] urged [press release] the Senate to act on the bill, saying [video]:

This bill will take a long overdue, comprehensive review of our criminal justice system - taking a look at what's broken and what works. ... Essentially all elements in our country that are involved in this issues agree that we need to find the type of solution that's going to make our system more fair, more efficient, and reduce crime and criminal recidivism in our communities.
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010 [S 714 materials; backgrounder] was initially introduced in the Senate by Webb in March 2009. In April, Delahunt introduced the companion legislation in the House. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] in January and now awaits full chamber approval.

The legislation joins a series of recent US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] rulings scrutinizing the criminal justice system. In June, the Court decided [JURIST report] that federal sentencing guidelines [materials] do not provide for special consideration of changes in sentencing guidelines during USC § 3582(c)(2) [text] sentence modification hearings, and are advisory only, although they had never ruled on the application to sentence modification hearings. A week earlier, the court upheld [JURIST report] the Sentencing Reform Act [18 USC § 3624(b) text] method used by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) [official website] permitting federal prison authorities to award prisoners credit against prison time as a reward for good behavior. In May, the court held [JURIST report] that the Eighth Amendment [text] ban on cruel and unusual punishments prohibits the imprisonment of a juvenile for life without the possibility of parole as punishment for the juvenile's commission of a non-homicide offense.

 

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