Support Comprehensive Review of the Criminal Justice System Vote for H.R. 5143

Media 07.27,10

Recipient: House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States, we urge you to vote yes for passage of the “National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010”  (H.R. 5143).  This bill, which has bipartisan support, would establish an independent national commission charged with conducting a thorough evaluation of the nation’s criminal justice system and offering recommendations for cost-effective reforms.  Having a transparent and bipartisan Commission develop a research-based strategy will restore public confidence in the criminal justice system and increase our collective safety.

The need for comprehensive review of our criminal justice system is undeniable.  At every stage of the criminal justice system, there are serious problems that undermine basic tenets of equality and fairness. 

As an initial matter, the United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning a higher percentage of its population than any other country, yielding a total of 2.3 million individuals in prison.  Minorities make up a disproportionately large share of prison populations.  Black males have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives; Hispanic males have a 17 percent chance; while white males have a 6 percent chance.  These racial disparities call into question the practices utilized by law enforcement and the judicial system, and have had an overwhelming impact on minority communities.

The high costs of incarceration are unsustainable during these times of economic uncertainty and in the long term.  Current predictions are that by 2011, continued state prison growth will cost almost $75 billion.  Over the past two decades, state spending on corrections increased 127 percent.  The investment in enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration in cases of low-level offenses has resulted in strained resources at all levels of government. 

Passage of this important piece of legislation is a first step in developing cost-effective and evidence-based solutions to improve our criminal justice system.  We urge you vote yes for passage of H.R. 5143.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Leadership Conference Counsel Lexer Quamie, at (202) 466-3648, or Nancy Zirkin, at 202-263-2880. Thank you for your consideration of this critical issue. 


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President