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Senate Proceeding on Mar 26th, 2009 :: 2:57:10 to 3:20:10
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James Webb

2:56:57 to 2:57:19( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: quorum call: a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: sorry. the senator from virginia. mr. webb: consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without obction. mr. webb: i ask consent topeak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. webb: madam president, i send a bill to the desk and ask

James Webb

2:57:10 to 3:20:10( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: James Webb

James Webb

2:57:20 to 2:57:41( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: for its appropriate referral. the presiding officer: the bill will beeceived and appropriately referred. mr. webb: thank you, madam president. today i'm pleased to be introducing a piece of legislation designed to establish a national criminal justice commission.

James Webb

2:57:42 to 2:58:02( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: i do so with, at the moment, 12 cosponsors, including our majority leader, the chairman and the ranking republican on the senate judiciary committee, the chairman and the ranking member of the judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs and other members of our

James Webb

2:58:03 to 2:58:24( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: leadership. and i introduce this bill after more than two years of effort here in the senate that i will explain shortly. also with the prior conferal

James Webb

2:58:25 to 2:58:45( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: with supreme court justice kennedy and having discussed this matter with the president and the attorney general, both of whom i think are strongly supportive of -- of this concept. our design, our goal in this legislation is to create a national commission with an

James Webb

2:58:46 to 2:59:07( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: 18-month time line not to simply talk about the problems that we have in our criminal justice system but actually to look at all of the elements in this system, how they are interrelated in terms of the difficulties that we have in remedying issues of criminal justice in this country and to deliver us from a situation that

James Webb

2:59:08 to 2:59:29( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: has evolved over time where we are putting far too many of the wrong people into prison and we are still not feeling safer in our neighborhoods, we're still not putting in prison or bringing to justice those people who are perpetrating violence and criminality as a way of life life. and i would like to say that i

James Webb

2:59:30 to 2:59:51( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: come to this issue, although i'm not on the judiciary committee, as someone who first became interested in criminal justice issues while i was serving as a united states marine, serving on a number of courts-martial and thinking about the interrelationship between

James Webb

2:59:52 to 3:00:12( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: discipline and fairness, and then after that from hing spent time as an attorney, at one point representing pro bono a young former marine who had been convicted of murder in vietnam. i represented him for six years pro bono. he took his life halfway through this process. i cleared his name three years later

James Webb

3:00:13 to 3:00:35( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: but having become painfully aware of how sometimes inequities affect our process. and prior t joining the senate having spent time as a journalist including a stint 25 years ago as the first american journalist to have been inside

James Webb

3:00:36 to 3:00:57( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: the japanese prison system where i became aware of the systematic difficulties and challenges that we have. at that time, 25 years ago, japan with happen our populationed had only 40,000

James Webb

3:00:58 to 3:01:18( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: sentenced prisoners in jail and we had 580,000 and today we have 2.3 million prisoners in our criminal justice system and another five million involved in the process either due to probation or parole situations. this is a situation that is very

James Webb

3:01:19 to 3:01:39( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: much imuch in need of the right sort of overarching examination. the senior senator from pennsylvania has joined me and i'm gratified he has joined me as the lead republican on this measure. i would look forward to hearing from him as soon as i am finished with my remarks.

James Webb

3:01:40 to 3:02:00( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: the third thing that i would like to say at the outset, i believe very strongly even though we are a federal body, that there is a compelling national interest for us to examine this issue and reshape and reform our criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local levels. i believe the commission i am

James Webb

3:02:01 to 3:02:21( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: going to present will provide us with that opportunity. let's start with a premise that i don't think a lotf americans are aware of, madam president. we have 5% of the world's population; we have 25% of the world's known prison population. we have an incarcetion in the united states, the world's

James Webb

3:02:22 to 3:02:42( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the incarceration rate of the rest of the world. there's only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the united states; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal

James Webb

3:02:43 to 3:03:03( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: justice. and i would ask my fellow senators and my fellow citizens to think about the challenges that attend these kinds of numbers when we are looking at people who have been released from prison and are reentering

James Webb

3:03:04 to 3:03:27( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: american society. we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands reentering american society without that we would need in order to allow a great pcentage of them to again become productive citizens. i think we need to look at this in terms of our own history, our own recent history.

James Webb

3:03:28 to 3:03:49( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: this i a chart that shows our incarceration rate from 1925 until today. beginning in about 1980 our incarsation rate started to skyrocket -- incarceration rate started to high rocket. what has happened since 1980 is not reflective of where our own history has been on this issue,

James Webb

3:03:50 to 3:04:10( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: a reason why we need to examine it. we are also, for complex set of reasons, warehousing the mentally ill in our prisons with four times as many mentally ill in our prisons opposed to institutions for complex reasons. the main point for all of us is

James Webb

3:04:11 to 3:04:31( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: to consider is these people who are in prison are not receiving the kind of treatment they would need in order to remedy the disabilities that have brought them to that situation. obviously, this becomes the elephant in the bedroom in many of the discussions on criminal justice system: drug

James Webb

3:04:32 to 3:04:54( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: incarceration has sharply increased over the past three decades. in 1980 we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%. the blue disks represent the numbers in 1980; the red disks

James Webb

3:04:55 to 3:05:16( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: represent the numbers in 2007 and a significant percente are incarcerated for poe keg possession or nonviolent offenses stemming from drug addiction and those sorts of related behavioral

James Webb

3:05:17 to 3:05:37( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: issues. this is a stubbing statistic for us and i want to emphasize to my colleagues and to others that the issues that we face with respect to criminal justice are not overall racial issues. they involve issues in many

James Webb

3:05:38 to 3:05:58( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: cases of how people are treated based on their ability to have proper counsel and other issues but this is a statistics with respect to drugs that must come to terms with. african-americans are about 12% of our population; contrary to a lot of thought and rhetoric,

James Webb

3:05:59 to 3:06:20( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: their drug use rate in terms of frequent drug use rate is about the same as all other elements of our society, about 14%. but they end up being 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of those sentenced to prison by the numbers that have been provided by us and to the joint

James Webb

3:06:21 to 3:06:41( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: economic committee. at the same time, when i say we're putting too many of the wrong people in prison, we're not solving the problems that will bring safety on our communities. gangs are a hot issue today. i am on the armed services committee, on the foreign affairs committee and there have

James Webb

3:06:42 to 3:07:02( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: been a lot of back and forth about the trans national games that are em-- gangs that are emanating across the mexican border. approximately a million gang meers are counted in our country today. i want to emphasize this, this is in the an issue that is

James Webb

3:07:10 to 3:07:31( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: simply existing loan th the m along the mexican border. the mexican drug cart sells are the most -- cartels are the most violent, operating in 230 american cities, not simply the border. the incidents on the border illuminate the largeness of this problem. gangs in many areas commit 80%

James Webb

3:07:32 to 3:07:56( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: of the crimes and heavily involved in drug distribution but they are involved in other violent activities, as well. there's been some talk over the past few days about how our position toward drugs and our

James Webb

3:07:57 to 3:08:18( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: gun policies feed this problem. i would ask my colleagues to think very hard about that. drugs are a demand problem in the united states. no question about that. and there are a lot of weapons going back and forth across the border. but the mexican drug cartels are capable of a very certifies

James Webb

3:08:19 to 3:08:41( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: texted legal of quasi-military violence. a very sophisticated level of confuse military violence. many of the members in the cartels are former mexican military, some trained by our own special forces and the weapons they use are not the kind of weapons you will buy at a gun show, madam president.

James Webb

3:08:42 to 3:09:02( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: you don't get automatic weapons, r.p.g.'s and grenades as a gun show. we have to realize the cartels have a lot of money. by some indications they make profit levels of about $25 billion a year. they can buy the weapons they want we have to get on ton of this as a national priority. again, it's not simply the trans

James Webb

3:09:03 to 3:09:23( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: national gangs out of mexico. many are central americans. here in northern virginia we have thousands of members, in northern have, right across the potomac river, who are, who belong to the gangs separating from centra

James Webb

3:09:24 to 3:09:44( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: and there are asian gangs. we have to get this problem as we address mass incarceration in the united states. another piece of this issue that

James Webb

3:09:45 to 3:10:08( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: i hope we will be able to address with this national criminal justice commission is what happens inside our prisons. when i was looking at the japanese system many years ago, their model in terms of prison administration was basically

James Webb

3:10:11 to 3:10:31( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: designed after a true debl -- traditional japanese jail. they had national examinations, a year of preparation, traing and psychology and counseling techniques, before an individual was allowed to be a turnkey in a jail. the promotion systems were internal just like the united states military. it provided a quality career path. and it brought highly trained

James Webb

3:10:32 to 3:10:55( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: people in at the going. we don't have that in america. prisons various, warden to warden. they vary lality to locality. we need to examine a better way to do that in our country. we also have a situation in this country with respect to prison

James Webb

3:10:56 to 3:11:18( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: violence and sex you'll -- sexual victimization off the charts. we also have many people in our prisons who are among what are called the criminally ill, many suffering fromepatitis and h.i.v. who are not getting the sorts of treatment they deserve. i started once i arrived in the

James Webb

3:11:19 to 3:11:40( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: senate, working on this issue. i was pleased to be working with senator schumern the joint economic committee. he allowed me to chair hearings to try to get our arms around this problem and see what sort of legislative approach might help. i chaired a hearing on mass incarceration in october of 2007

James Webb

3:11:41 to 3:12:01( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: and i chaired another hearing last year on the overall impact of illegal drugs from point of origin through the criminal justice system; how does this work in terms of the underground business environment; how does it work in terms of the

James Webb

3:12:02 to 3:12:22( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: disparity in terms of treatment of those incarcerated; what are the costs associated with it. i was able to work with the george mason university law center to put together a forum bringing people in from across the country to talk about our other all drugs policy.

James Webb

3:12:23 to 3:12:45( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: once we started talking about this particularly over the last year we started being contacted from people all across the country -- people from every different aspect of the political and the philosophical areas that come into play when we talk about incarceration. it is a very emotional issue.

James Webb

3:12:46 to 3:13:06( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: i heard from justice kennedy of the supreme prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, former offenders, people in prison, police on the street. all of them are saying we have a mess here, a mess, that we have to get a holistic view of how to

James Webb

3:13:07 to 3:13:27( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: solve it. there are many good pieces of legislation that have been introduced in t united states congress to deal with different pieces of this but after going through this process over the past year i've come to the conclusion the way we should address this is with a national commission that will examine all

James Webb

3:13:28 to 3:13:49( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: of these pieces together and make sesk findings so we can turn it aroun these are just examples of of the editorial support we have received. i have written a piece for "parade magazine," out this weekend. and i hope our fellow citizens will take a look at it, as best

James Webb

3:13:50 to 3:14:10( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: i can, to summarize the challenges that we have. now, as to the design of this legislation, we are looking for two things. one is to shape a commission with bipartisan balance -- the president nominating the leader,

James Webb

3:14:11 to 3:14:33( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: the majority leader and minority leaders of both houses of congress in concert with the judiciary committees each having two members to be able to appoint, and then the national gives association, republican and democrat, each getting one member. and the idea, again, is not to have a group of people who are

James Webb

3:14:34 to 3:14:55( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: going to sit around and simply discuss the problem but to get a group of people with credibility in our country, wide to examine specific findings to come up with policy recollections on an 18-month time period. the issues that we have put into the legislation are asking ourselves, what are the reasons

James Webb

3:14:56 to 3:15:16( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: this our own history that we've seen this incredible increase in incarceration? what do other countries d particularly other countries that have the governmental syste that we do? how do they handle comparable types of crime?

James Webb

3:15:17 to 3:15:37( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: what should we do about prison administration policies, prison management? how can we bring more quality, stability, and predictability in terms of the prison environment itself? wh current incarceration policies, not only in terms of the

James Webb

3:15:38 to 3:15:59( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: billions of dollars that we spend on building prisons or the billions of dollars we spend on housing people in psons, but in terms of lost opportunities with our postprison systems and how we can better manage that area. also the impact of gang

James Webb

3:16:00 to 3:16:20( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: activities, including these transnational gangs. now should we approach that issue, not simply in terms of incarceration but as a nation that is under duress from not being able to respond properly to these gang activities? importantly, what are we going

James Webb

3:16:21 to 3:16:41( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: to do about drug policy? the whole area of drug policy in this country. and how does that affect sentencing procedures and other alternatives that we might look at? we need to examine the policies as they relate to the mentally ill. we should look at the historical role of the military when it

James Webb

3:16:42 to 3:17:02( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: comes to house we are approaching these cross-border situations, particularly on the mexican border. and, importantly -- i think to say this to all of my colleagues -- any other area that the commission deems relevant. this is our best effort, after two years, at coming up with a

James Webb

3:17:03 to 3:17:23( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: universe that needs to be examined. there are many people,ncluding the senior senator from pennsylvania here on the floor, who have worked on these areas for a number of years, and if they have specific findings that they believe the commission should to accommodate that. the second step for the commission -- the first step

James Webb

3:17:24 to 3:17:45( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: would be to give us findings, give us factual finding and from those findings, then give us recommendation for policy changes. the same areas that i was just addressing in terms of the findings apply in terms of the policy recommendations, how we can refocus our incarceration

James Webb

3:17:46 to 3:18:08( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: policies, work toward properly reducing the incarceration rate, in fair, cost-effective ways that still protect our communities; how we should address the issue of prison violence in all forms; how we can improve prison administration; how we can establish meaningful re-entry programs.

James Webb

3:18:09 to 3:18:30( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: i believe that with the high volume of people who are comin out of prisons, we must, on a national level, assist local communities, state communities in figuring out a way to transition these people so that those of us wh aren't going to become -- those former offenders

James Webb

3:18:31 to 3:18:51( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: who are not going to become recidivists will have a true pathway to get away from the stigma of incarceration and move into a productive future. and, again, importantly, the last category: any other aspect of the system that the commission or the people participating in it determine

James Webb

3:18:52 to 3:19:12( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: necessary. this is our i am very gratified to have had as initial cosponsors on this legislation six members of the senate judiciary committee, including, as i mentioned, the chairman, senator leahy; the ranking republican, senator

James Webb

3:19:13 to 3:19:34( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: specter; the chairman of the subcommittee on crime and drugs, senator durbin; the ranking republican on that subcommittee, senator graham; and a number of others including our democratic -- key democratic leadership, most importantly our leader. so i would hope that we can get

James Webb

3:19:35 to 3:19:55( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: this legislation done this year. this is an issue that doesn't percolate up in the same way. it doesn't have programmatic element to it, in many cases, but it is an issue that threatens every community in the united states and begs for the notion of fairness. and with that, i see that the

James Webb

3:19:56 to 3:20:11( Edit History Discussion )

James Webb: senior senator fromennsylvania is on the floor. i want to say how greatly i admire the work that he has done in this area over many, many years and how much i appreciate his support on this endeavor.

3:19:56 to 3:20:16( Edit History Discussion )

senior senator fromennsylvania is on the floor. i want to say how greatly i admire the work that he has done in this area over many, many years and how much i appreciate his support on this endeavor. and with that, madam president, mr. specter: madam president? the presiding officer: the

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