by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
He’s not running for re-election, but Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is still pushing for prison reform, as documented in a Newsweek profile.
Webb, a law-and-order type who once derided affirmative action as “state-sponsored racism,” is an unlikely crusader for a cause typically championed by civil-rights activists and drug-war opponents. And yet, in 2009, the senator introduced legislation that would create the first comprehensive national review of crime policy in 45 years—legislation that he has been fighting, with plenty of “stress, insanity, and gnashing of teeth,” as one aide puts it, to pass, in vain, ever since. Now Webb, who recently announced that he will not seek a second term in 2012, thinks he may have finally found his moment. “The timing is right,” says Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We have millions of people in prison when states are struggling to balance their budgets, and, for the first time, a vibrant, nonideological middle ground on crime policy. This is a moral and fiscal problem now..”
One suspects that prison reform advocate John Hood will be interested to study the results of Webb’s work. Jon Sanders will be interested as well. He discussed reform of the criminal justice system during a March 2010 candidate briefing.