Senator Webb launches bi-partisan prison reform

March 30, 2009

(Chattahbox) — With a population of 2,393,000 and rising, the nation’s prison system has become the focus of major concern for Senator Jim Webb [D-VA]. Calling the current position in which our prisons house five-times more people than DC itself, ‘a national disgrace,’ Senator Webb has proposed that a more radical cure must now be applied.

Joined by Senator Arlen Specter [R-PA,] in a welcome example of objective focus, the two lawmakers have sponsored The National Criminal Justice Commission Act, a bi-partisan bill to create a blue-ribbon panel, charged with performing an incisive review and presenting concrete plans for comprehensive and grossly-belated reforms.

In an engaging but troubling speech last Thursday, the Senator told reporters that the US has five-percent of the globe’s population, yet it houses a quarter of the world’s prison inmates, too many of whom are there for minor offenses or mental-health issues, for which incarceration has proved an ineffective response; “We are not protecting our citizens from criminals who perpetrate violence, and we are locking-up too many people who do not belong in a jail,” he explained to the audience and press.

The proposed new Commission would have the onerous task of formulating a more effective response to gangs who use firearms in the commission of narcotics crimes, a complete overhaul of the criminal status of the narcotics themselves, better options for people with mental-health issues, and more practical solutions for restoring former prisoners to society, thus reducing the risks of recidivism sinking their plans. “Our failure to address the problems has caused the nation’s prisons to burst their seams, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous.” the Senator remarked, “We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.”

The numbers do indeed make disheartening reading; At the time of the 2007 Census, the federal correctional system housed  2.4-million people – more than one percent of the nation’s entire population. This puts us far behind more draconian regimes like Iran, or even China, whose 1.3-billion people can lay claim to less than half that amount.

And according to a study conducted in 2008 by The Pew Center, an independent research group, those whom society deems a minority can often fare even worse; 1-in-36 Hispanics and 1-in-9 black men aged 20-34 are in jail at this moment, for reasons the study does not disclose.

With such a worrying swathe of American humanity currently wearing a number, there is clear and unambiguous need for reform. Should the Senators’ plans achieve his assent, President Obama would appoint the new panel’s leader, with the heads of their relevant parties and Governors Associations selecting the remaining ten members from such apposite realms as criminal justice, law enforcement, health, national security, prison management, social services and even victims’ rights.

The triumphant progression of his His 21st Century GI Bill through Congress last year would suggest that Senator Webb’s prospects for success in this quest are robust. The President is known to look kindly on the former Navy Secretary’s plans and is sure to endorse them once his seal is required.


3 Responses to “Senator Webb launches bi-partisan prison reform”

  1. Robert Stevens on March 31st, 2009 8:57 am

    USA: 5% Population, 25% Inmates

    Writing in Parade magazine, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

    “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. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000….”

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