Congress Forms "Over-Criminalization" Task Force

Ten members of the House Judiciary Committee have agreed to form an Over-Criminalization Task Force to review the expansion of the federal criminal code and make recommendations for paring it down. There are roughly 4,500 federal crimes on the law books, with new ones being added at a rate of about 50 a year.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is one of 10 task force members.
This proposed review of federal criminal laws is the first since the 1980s, when the number of federal crimes on the books was about half what it is now. The task force will conduct hearings and investigate issues around over-criminalization and will have the opportunity to issue reports to the Justice Committee on its findings and policy recommendations.

Task force members include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), George Holding (R-NC), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Jerold Nadler (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The group contains both prominent drug law reformers, such as Cohen and Scott, and prominent drug warriors, such as Gohmert and Sensenbrenner.

Among possible topics for the task force are federal drug laws and sentences in general and federal marijuana prohibition in particular. The group could also explore the issue of mens rea, or criminal intent, particularly in relation to the expansion of the use of conspiracy laws since the late 1980s. The use of those laws has led to low-level offenders, including some who were not even part of a drug trafficking enterprise, being sentenced to years or decades in federal prison -- sentences that were supposed to be reserved for high-level offenders.

"As former chairman and long-serving member of the Judiciary Committee, I've seen first-hand just how muddled the criminal code is," said Sensenbrenner. "It's time to scrub it clean. The Over-Criminalization Task Force will review federal laws in Title 18, and laws outside of Title 18 that have not gone through the Judiciary Committee, to modernize our criminal code. In addition, I reintroduced the Criminal Code Modernization and Simplification Act [not posted as of Tuesday] today, which would reform Title 18 of the US Code, reduce the existing criminal code by more than one-third, and update the code to make it more comprehensible."

"Unduly expansive criminal provisions in our law unnecessarily drive up incarceration rates," said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the committee's ranking Democrat. "Almost one-quarter of the world's inmates are locked up in the United States, yet Americans constitute only five percent of the world population. In addition, the incarceration rate for African Americans is six times that of the national incarceration average. I welcome the work of the over-criminalization task force in analyzing this serious issue."

"Although crime is primarily a matter for states and localities to handle, over the last 40 or so years Congress has increasingly sought to address societal problems by adding criminal provisions to the federal code," said Scott. "There are now over 4,000 federal criminal provisions, plus hundreds of thousands of federal regulations which impose criminal penalties, often without requiring that criminal intent be shown to establish guilt. As a result, we are hearing many complaints of overuse and abusive uses of federal criminal laws from a broad-based coalition of organizations ranging from the Heritage Foundation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Today, we are establishing a bipartisan task force on over-criminalization to assess issues and make recommendations for improvements to the federal criminal system, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this worthy endeavor."

"This Task Force is a step in the right direction and could propose recommendations to significantly alleviate mass incarceration and racial disparities in the federal system," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The establishment of this Task Force is long overdue for the drug policy reform movement. It is past time for Congress to re-examine marijuana laws, conspiracy laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and the appropriate role and use of the federal government’s resources."

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Democrates my as well be Republicans

From the States they originate...

"What of the cripple who

"What of the cripple who hates dancers? What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things? What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless? And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are a violation and all feasters lawbreakers?" 

—Khalil Gibran

It is the Prohibitionists, a wholly malignant scourge of absolute scoundrels, who are literally strangling the Constitution and starving Freedom to death. And until the Freedom and Constitution of our once proud and prosperous nation is secured, these same prohibitionist parasites, with their promotion of organized crime, murder, terrorism, and economic recession—and who carry with them a disease far fouler than Old Testament leprosy—shall be hunted down, removed from public life, and punished accordingly.

Prohibition is an absolute scourge —The End!  The use of drugs is NOT the real problem, the system that grants exclusive distribution rights to violent cartels, terrorists, and corrupt politicians most definitely IS.

Prohibitionists are simply traitors that haven't yet been Tried and Executed!

Where's the thumbs up,up,up button

Very well stated! Prohibitionist are Id10ts.

Well this over

Well this over criminalization task force needs to look in the tactics that the ICAC's are imploring when performing sting operations throughout the country. These operations are not catching true predators, they are creating criminals at an alarming rate and Florida is leading the way by far.

Well this over

Well this over criminalization task force needs to look in the tactics that the ICAC's are imploring when performing sting operations throughout the country. These operations are not catching true predators, they are creating criminals at an alarming rate and Florida is leading the way by far.

AN ACCEPTABLE UNEMPLOYMENT SPIKE

Its time to give those politicians whom work for lobbyist votes rather than the people an unpaid vacation, The DEA and others who work only to destabilize families disbanded and sent fishing. Use the funds once used to investigate prosecute and house drug offenders to rebuild our empire.

Thumbs all the way up!

I am right there with the "where's the thumbs up,up,up, button". This is criminal in itself. Absolutely disgusting and much applause to all who wish to make a change. Families are consistently ripped apart and children are growing up in environments such as the foster care system, also a money making, mishandled, illicit issue. The monetary gain to the people involved to see helpless humans fighting for their literal LIFE, makes the ones who have a heart like me want to cry. A life is not perfect, people are not perfect, and we all make mistakes, but this? Knocking people's lives to a style of crime with a stigma, limited possibilities, and making the roads for them after they've paid their debts impossible, is ungodly in every sense. I thought we were supposed to help our "people" and be a country of the proud! Like the gentleman said, all the funding for the accused and prisioned by falsity should go to reform! Reform!

America, America, America!

America, America, America! Learn from Portugal and decriminalize all drugs. The PROVEN result is BIG TIME less crime, less use of hard drugs and less spreading of diseases. Learn from your OWN past regarding Prohibition, what happened then? Big time increase in crime and increase in deaths. Your choice!

Drugs will always be easy to

Drugs will always be easy to get, no matter if they're legal or illegal. For illicit drugs, you go get some from your friend; for licit drugs, you give the money to your older friends to buy them for you. However, with commericialization, kids who never cared about doing drugs in the first place would be exposed to glorification of drug use, so they will be more likely to become daily drug users. Decriminalization is the only way!

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