05.18.15

Peters Calls For National Commission to Review Criminal Justice System

Peters Introduced Legislation to Conduct Top-To-Bottom Review and Make Recommendations to Improve Criminal Justice System

 

DETROIT, MI –Today, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke at Wayne State University Law School to call for the creation of a National Criminal Justice Commission to review the criminal justice system from top to bottom and propose reforms to address the most pressing issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system. Recent incidents, like the traffic stop of Floyd Dent in Inkster, MI, and civil unrest in communities like Baltimore, MD and Ferguson, MO have highlighted the need for a comprehensive evaluation of our criminal justice system. Peters was joined by Reverend Dr. Wendell Anthony of the Detroit Branch NAACP, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson.

“It has been fifty years since our country’s criminal justice system last had a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review, and it is clear that an overhaul is long overdue,” said Senator Peters. “Whether we are talking about Inkster, Ferguson or Baltimore, the relationship between law enforcement and our communities is strained, and we face serious issues in our criminal justice system from unsustainable costs to overcrowded prisons to disparities in the grand jury process. I’m proud to call for the creation of a National Criminal Justice Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of our criminal justice system and identify the best practices to protect public safety, promote fairness and strengthen faith in our justice system.”

In April, Peters introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2015 with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and John Cornyn (TX). The legislation would create a 14-member, bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission made up of Presidential and Congressional appointees, including experts on law enforcement, criminal justice, victims’ rights, civil liberties and social services.

The Commission would be charged with completing an 18-month comprehensive review of the national criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice systems, and issuing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices and laws to provide a better understanding of community relationships with law enforcement, reduce crime, increase public safety and promote confidence in the criminal justice system. The last comprehensive review of the criminal justice system was conducted in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson created the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.

“Our country faces serious challenges at every stage of our criminal justice system - from initial interactions with law enforcement to sentencing to reentering the community after incarceration,” said Reverend Dr. Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit Branch NAACP. “The NAACP supports Senator Peters’ efforts to create a much-needed National Criminal Justice Commission to conduct a comprehensive review and help us understand the changes we must make to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and our communities, promote fairness and equity in our criminal justice system and help keep our communities safe.”

"Police must have a strong and positive relationship with the communities they serve in order to their jobs safely and effectively protect their communities," said Detroit Police Chief James Craig.  "I know that the City of Detroit serves as a model to other cities, showing that transparency and trust will help improve this vital relationship.  I applaud Senator Peters' leadership on this important issue that will help make sure that law enforcement officers have the resources, best practices and training necessary to stay safe on the job and better serve their communities." 

“Our criminal justice system places many youth at risk - particularly youth of color. They face many threats, including practices and policies that funnel them out of the school system and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The ACLU of Michigan supports Senator Peters’ call for a National Criminal Justice Commission that will examine the juvenile justice system. The commission can complement a variety of reforms that should be implemented immediately to end threats to our youth and communities of color.”

“From the street to our courtrooms to our prisons and beyond, our criminal justice system faces numerous challenges that we must work together to address,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper. “We must build a justice system that works for everyone. I’m proud to support Senator Peters’ legislation to create a National Criminal Justice Commission that will identify commonsense solutions to the challenges we face and help strengthen faith in the system as a whole.”

“As part of the comprehensive review of our criminal justice system, we need to review the state of our prison system and the reintegration of ex-offenders back into their communities,” said Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. “From prison overcrowding to recidivism and difficult reentry in society after incarceration, we need a National Criminal Justice Commission to help us understand the causes and identify solutions to these challenges. I support Senator Peters’ legislation that will help make sure we are giving ex-offenders who have served their time a fair shot at a second chance.”

“We are at a critical moment in the history of our justice system, where we must ensure that the constitutional ideals of equal justice for all are a reality for everyone,” said Jocelyn Benson, dean of the Wayne State University Law School. “This commission will bring us closer to this promise.” 

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