Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Untitled Document

This edition of The Razor Wire is available as a full size, fully printable Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Jim Webb Wants a Decarceration Plan for America

By Tom Murlowski

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA): decorated war hero, journalist, screenwriter, Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration. He was on the short list for President Barack Obama's vice-presidential pick. Webb currently serves on the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Veterans' Affairs, and the Joint Economic Committee.

But now meet Senator Webb as Prison Reformer.

Webb is one of very few leaders on Capitol Hill actively trying to reform drug and prison policies that have made the United States the World's leading Jailer. In October 2008, Webb and the Administration of Justice Department of George Mason University hosted a symposium entitled "Drugs in America: Trafficking, Policy and Sentencing." Moderated by Sen. Webb, the three panels of experts examined drug distribution in the U.S; law enforcement practices; and punitive vs. public health responses to drug abuse.

Webb aims much of his criticism at enforcement efforts that too often target low-level drug offenders and parole violators, rather than those who perpetrate violence. He also blames policies that strip felons of citizenship rights and hinder their chances of finding a job after release. He insists that our communities can be made safer while making the system more humane AND cost-effective.

In his recently-released book, A Time to Fight, Webb wrote: "Either we are home to the most evil population on earth, or we are locking up a lot of people who really don't need to be in jail, for actions that other countries seem to handle in more constructive ways." In his role as ranking member of the Senate Joint Economic Committee, Webb has twice convened hearings on mass incarceration in America.

"Over the course of the period from the mid-1970's until today, the United States has embarked on one of the largest public policy experiments in our history. Yet this experiment remains shockingly absent from public debate: the United States now imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world.

"With the world's largest prison population, our prisons test the limits of our democracy and push the boundaries of our moral identity". -- Sen. Jim Webb, speaking at the Senate Joint Economic Committee Hearing on Mass Incarceration, Fall 2007

"America is locking up people at astonishing rates. In the name of 'getting tough on crime,' there are now 2.2 million Americans in federal, state, and local prisons and jails and over 7 million under some form of correction supervision, including probation and parole. We have the largest prison population in the world. This growth is not a response to increasing crime rates, but a reliance on prisons and long mandatory sentences as the common response to crime. It is time for America's leadership to realize what the public understands -- our approach is costly, unfair and impractical." -- Sen. Jim Webb, in a FAMM press release.

From Sen. Webb's website ( "I am committed to initiating a serious dialogue and raising public awareness about the U.S. criminal justice system and incarceration policies. Over the past two years, I have held a number of Senate hearings, hosted a symposium of experts at George Mason University and delivered the keynote address for a Brookings Institute panel at the National Press Club on this pressing issue.

"This year I plan to introduce legislation to launch a comprehensive review of our criminal justice system. It is imperative that a national commission take an overarching look at where the system is broken and how we fix it. To start, focus must be placed on locking up the most dangerous people instead of diverting time and money to incarcerate the wrong people. This means making sharp distinctions between offenders of violent crimes and those incarcerated for non-violent crimes, drug abuse and mental illness.

"This challenge of criminal justice reform demands dedicated attention and viable solutions."

Webb makes his points well, of course, and may be uniquely suited to lead the charge in Washington for radical sentencing reform. As a staunch supporter of the military, and former war hero, it's difficult to label him as 'soft' on anything.

You can learn how to help support his efforts by contacting him at: Sen. Jim Webb, 144 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, 866-507-1570

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Drug War Chronicle

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact