March 30, 2009 11:55AM

Jim Webb and Criminal Justice

Senator Jim Webb (D‐​Va) is calling for a national commission to review the American criminal justice system from top to bottom. Good for him. With more than seven million people under criminal justice supervision (prison, parole, probation), a thorough review is desperately needed. You can tell that Webb is new to the Congress because he is raising a subject that most of the long term incumbents would rather not discuss. As Glenn Greenwald observes:

For a Senator like Webb to spend his time trumpeting the evils of excessive prison rates, racial disparities in sentencing, the unjust effects of the Drug War, and disgustingly harsh conditions inside prisons is precisely the opposite of what every single political consultant would recommend that he do. There’s just no plausible explanation for what Webb’s actions other than the fact that he’s engaged in the noblest and rarest of conduct: advocating a position and pursuing an outcome because he actually believes in it and believes that, with reasoned argument, he can convince his fellow citizens to see the validity of his cause. And he is doing this despite the fact that it potentially poses substantial risks to his political self‐​interest and offers almost no prospect for political reward. Webb is far from perfect — he’s cast some truly bad votes since being elected — but, in this instance, not only his conduct but also his motives are highly commendable.

Read the whole thing.

And speaking of Glenn Greenwald, he will be here at Cato this Friday to discuss his new study for Cato, Drug Decriminalization in Portugal. Portugal is treating drug use as a health problem, not a crime problem, and it is working rather well. When Senator Webb’s commission gets assembled, this report ought to be at the top of its reading list.

To register for the Greenwald forum, go here. For a discussion on mass incarceration, go here. For more Cato work on crime and drugs, go here and here.