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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman for yielding, and I also want to thank the chairman for moving this piece of legislation.
I introduced this legislation to declare March as National Criminal Justice Month, and the purpose is to educate Americans on how important our justice system is and encourage discussion on how to prevent and respond to criminal conduct.
Our criminal justice system employs over 3 million Americans at the local, State and Federal levels of the government. And the word and the emphasis should be on the phrase "justice system" because it involves the cooperation of law enforcement and prosecutors, courts, correctional officers, and many other persons.
In my former life, I spent 8 years as a prosecutor in the Houston area, and then I spent 22 years on the criminal court bench in Houston, hearing over 25,000 felony cases.
When I came to Washington, D.C., I established the bipartisan Victims Rights Caucus to advocate on behalf of crime victims and law enforcement. It is apparent to me that victims need a voice in Congress. They don't have high paid and high-dollar lobbyists; they expect Members of Congress to be their advocates.
Each year, millions of Americans become victims of criminal conduct, everything from stealing to homicide, and these individuals do not choose to become victims. They are thrown into the criminal justice system without ever having a say. The devastating consequences of crime remain with the victims long after the crime is over with; and the purpose of the criminal justice system is to provide closure for victims and punish people who commit crimes against the rule of law, which is society's rules of law.
I hope this resolution encourages communities to discuss the causes and the consequences and long-term effects of criminal conduct. When a crime occurs, a community must respond by apprehending the individual and ensuring appropriate punishment if that person is found guilty, and, of course, helping the victim that is in need.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 35 percent of Americans have little or no confidence in our criminal justice system. It is unfortunate that one-third of the people in this country feel that way. If you turn on your local news each night, the first thing that most local newscasts have is the latest crime that has been committed in a neighborhood. It is mostly bad news, and much of that bad news is about criminal conduct. Americans should have more confidence in our criminal justice system. I am convinced that our criminal justice system is the best system in the world.
I had the opportunity to visit the former Soviet Union. They don't have a criminal justice system. They just have a system. The same is true with China, when I visited their system on how they administer their laws. There is no justice in that system. It is just a system.
And here in the United States, we do have the best criminal justice system in the world on determining the guilt of an individual and giving defendants and victims of crime certain rights in the court, and maintaining the worth of the individual. Every year individuals, communities, businesses, and all levels of government spend millions and billions of dollars administering our justice system. The cost of crime is not cheap, and the aftermath of crime is not cheap either. Yet the price is worth it because of the price we pay to ensure our order, safety and appropriate punishment for those who fail to follow our laws.
As my fellow Texan and former judge, Judge Gohmert, has mentioned time and time again, there are numerous cases where we both have seen individuals who have come to the criminal justice system that have been victims of criminal conduct. And long after that trial is over with, even if the offender is convicted and sent to the Texas penitentiary for the maximum period of time, they suffer the repercussions of criminal conduct. Many of them are never able to cope with that conduct, and spend the rest of their lives in desperate hope, and wishing that crime had not occurred against them.
We as Americans need to be sensitive to those individuals. We need to be sensitive to the people who live among us who have crime committed against them.
So I hope this resolution gets more communities talking about the best way to prevent and respond to crime, and I want to urge its adoption.
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