04.29.15

Huffington Post: Senator Pushes Criminal Justice Reform Bill After Baltimore Riots

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a bill Tuesday that he said would be a preliminary step towards overhauling the criminal justice system in the wake of violent protests over policing in Baltimore and other cities around the country.

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2015 would create the first national commission on criminal justice since 1965, Peters said in a call with media Tuesday. The legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and has the support of two of its Republican members, Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John Cornyn (Texas).

Under the proposal, Congress and the president would appoint 14 experts in law enforcement, civil liberties, victims rights and other areas to review the criminal justice system. The group would have 18 months to issue recommendations aimed at increasing public safety and improving relations between communities and law enforcement.

"Whether we're talking about Ferguson or Inkster, Staten Island, North Charleston or what we're seeing actually right now in Baltimore, it’s clear that the relationship between law enforcement and our communities is strained, and it's probably long overdue to have an overhaul of our criminal justice system," Peters said.

In each city Peters mentioned, a police encounter resulted in the death or injury of a black man, sparking protests. In Baltimore, Freddie Gray died of a spinal injury he sustained while in police custody earlier this month. Six officers have been suspended, and the exact circumstances of his death are being investigated. Protests erupted following Gray’s funeral Monday, leading to instances of violence and looting.


By:  Kate Abbey-Lambertz