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Peters, Graham, Cornyn Announce Reintroduction of Bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced the reintroduction of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, bipartisan legislation that would task a National Criminal Justice Commission to assess the entire system and propose reforms to address the most pressing issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system is built on equality and fairness under the law, but too many Michiganders and Americans encounter a flawed system,” said Senator Peters. “Our courts are overburdened, incarceration costs are unsustainable and all too often we see strained relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. That’s why I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission that would assess our entire system and help propose reforms—while furthering efforts to reduce crime, improve public safety and promote more equitable criminal justice practices.”

“This is a long overdue measure,” said Senator Graham. “The men and women representing law enforcement understand the need for this legislation, and I appreciate them pushing Congress to move forward on this important issue. I think the nation will be better off with this essential top-to-bottom review of the most pressing issues facing our nation’s criminal justice system.”

“Strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and our communities begins with open dialogue, and through an objective review system we can modernize and reform our criminal justice system,” said Senator Cornyn. “I’m proud to again join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to empower both the men and women who risk their lives, and the communities they serve.”

The full list of bipartisan cosponsors for this bill includes Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The legislation would create a 14-member, bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission 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 reduce crime, increase public safety and promote confidence in the criminal justice system.

The Commission would be made up of Presidential and Congressional appointees, including experts on law enforcement, criminal justice, victims’ rights, civil liberties and social services. Peters, Graham and Cornyn previously introduced similar legislation to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission. Their legislation passed the Senate in December 2018.

The transparent and bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission would also provide a better understanding of community relationships with law enforcement and the administration of justice through our court system, and identify effective policies to address a broad range of issues in the criminal justice system including crime reduction, incarceration and prisoner reentry.

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. The 1965 Commission’s report offered over 200 recommendations that have shaped the current criminal justice system, including the creation of the 9-1-1 system establishment of research organizations like the Bureau of Justice Statistics and improved training and professionalization for law enforcement.

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act is supported by a broad coalition of criminal justice organizations, including law enforcement and criminal justice reform advocates.

Endorsements for the National Criminal Justice Commission Act include:

“One of the challenges we face as we work toward comprehensive criminal justice reform is the need to take a fresh look at our entire criminal justice system,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau. “The last time we looked closely and comprehensively at that system was with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice in 1967. The NAACP believes now is the time to fully reexamine our criminal justice system. Civil rights organizations and law enforcement groups have for years been calling for a thorough review of the criminal justice system, and events over the past few years have made it even more clear that we can’t wait any longer. We must address the challenges that undermine the basic tenets of justice, fairness, and equality and make crucial changes that will help strengthen the perception of integrity by all Americans, save lives, prevent crime and help law enforcement keep our communities even safer. We applaud Senators Peters, Graham and Cornyn for their bipartisan leadership on this effort and I look forward to working with them.”

“The National Association of Police Organizations [NAPO] supports the creation of a National Criminal Justice Commission to review our criminal justice system and make recommendations to improve how we prevent, deter and reduce crime and violence in our communities and protect the public safety,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, NAPO. “It is important that this Commission embraces the law enforcement perspective, including that of rank-and-file officers, and we thank Senators Peters, Graham and Cornyn for recognizing the important role law enforcement must play in shaping the future of the system. We look forward to continuing our work with them to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act.”

“It is evident that our criminal justice system is flawed and targets poor people and people of color disproportionately,” said Ebonie Riley, DC Bureau Chief, National Action Network. “The right to equal justice under the law should not be conditioned upon a person's color or economic status. Over the last two decades, National Action Network has been in the vanguard of the movement to bring such equality to every community that has been unfairly treated. Our crisis department has and continues to handle miscarriages of justice firsthand. That is why we support the bipartisan efforts to create a National Criminal Justice Commission, and we thank Senators Peters, Graham and Cornyn for their leadership in this effort. We look forward to working with the commission to address the crucial challenges that affect our criminal justice system and we urge more bipartisan support as we all work towards a more inclusive justice system.”

“The Police Officers Association of Michigan supports Senator Peters’ bill to create a commission to review law enforcement, from top to bottom,” said James Tignanelli, President, Police Officers Association of Michigan. “In too many instances, the line police officer is forgotten about in the making of decisions for the law enforcement community. Sen. Peters is on the right track, and the POAM is pleased that the Criminal Justice Commission Act has achieved a place on the agenda with bipartisan support.”

“We strongly support a comprehensive review of all areas of the criminal justice system to ensure that fairness and equality are fully integrated at its every stage,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League. “The proposed Commission will perform such a review and will make findings and recommendations for changes to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, reduce recidivism, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system. Such a review is long overdue. That is why the National Urban League applauds bipartisan efforts to create the National Criminal Justice Commission outlined in this bill. Through this Commission we also hope to identify solutions aimed at eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline that draw in too many of our youth. We applaud Senators Peters, Graham and Grassley for their leadership and look forward to working with the Commission.”

“The Police Chiefs from all over the nation were thrilled to see Senator Peters introduce this bill,” said Art Acevedo, Houston Chief of Police and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “It’s been over 50 years since there has been a comprehensive look at our criminal justice system and we urge every member of Congress to support this bill. So much has changed in our world and in our communities that has had an impact on criminal justice.  This bill needs to pass and the President needs to sign it.”