June 11, 2009
Portland, VA 97229
Dear Mr. X:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding drug policies in the United States. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me.
America’s incarceration rate raises serious questions about our criminal justice system. The steep increase in the number of people in prison is driven, according to many experts, by changes in drug policy and tougher sentencing, and not necessarily an increase in violent crime or crimes against property. Over the past two decades, we have been incarcerating increasing numbers of people for nonviolent crimes and acts driven by mental illness and drug dependence. Incarcerations for drug offenses have soared 1200% since 1980.
We know that our current combination of enforcement, diversion, interdiction, treatment, and prevention is not working. Despite the number of people we have arrested, the illegal drug industry and the flow of drugs have remained undiminished. We should treat and address drug addiction outside of prison environments to the extent that we can.
Our nation’s broken drug policies are just one reason why we must reexamine the entire criminal justice system. That is why I introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 (S.714) on March 26, 2009. S.714 is a bipartisan bill to create a blue-ribbon commission charged with conducting an 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the nation’s entire criminal justice system and offering concrete recommendations for reform. Commissioners will be tasked with proposing tangible, wide-ranging reforms, including restructuring our approach to drug criminalization.
As the U.S. Senate debates matters pertaining to drug policy and sentencing in the United States, I will keep your specific views in mind. I hope you continue to share your views with me and my staff in the years ahead.
I would also invite you to visit my website at www.webb.senate.gov for regular updates about my activities and positions on matters that are important to Virginia and our nation.
Thank you once again for contacting my office.
United States Senator