Members of the Supreme Court rarely speak publicly about their views on the sorts of issues that are likely to come before them. So it was notable when Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer sat before a House appropriations subcommittee recently and talked about the plight of the American criminal justice system.
Justice Kennedy did not mince his words. “In many respects, I think it’s broken,” he said.
It was a good reminder of the urgency of the problem, and a stark challenge to a Congress that remains unable to pass any meaningful sentencing reform, despite the introduction of multiple bipartisan bills over the past two years.
The main topic of the subcommittee hearing was the Supreme Court’s budget, but a question on prison overcrowding from Representative Steve Womack, Republican of Arkansas, gave Justice Kennedy a chance to lay out his views.