Shepherd said the ABA supports sensible reforms and suggested that bureaucrats lose their power to draft regulations that could bring jail terms.
"Those laws should be drafted by you," he said, "instead of being delegated to career people ... with a narrow focus and perhaps not a broader perspective," he said.
George Terwilliger, deputy attorney general during the first Bush administration, suggested that Congress pass an "overriding provision of law" requiring juries to determine that a defendant in any federal criminal case be found to have had criminal intent.
"We have lost sight of the proper use of federal criminal law as a carefully applied tool to protect the means and instrumentalities of commerce," said Terwilliger.
Steven Benjamin of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said that approximately 65 million Americans are "stigmatized by a criminal conviction." That's "not because we are a country of law-breakers or criminals," he said.
John Malcolm of The Heritage Foundation testified that unjust prosecutions cause Americans to lose respect for the legal system.
It's unclear how successful the over-criminalization task force will be at achieving its stated goals. Reason magazine noted in May that some of the task force's members have been particularly hesitant or hostile to reforming marijuana laws, for example.
But the ACLU is hopeful about the process.
"At a time of historically low rates of crime, the federal prison system is operating at almost 40 percent over capacity," the civil liberties group noted in a Friday statement. "A recent report by the Congressional Research Service found that the federal prison population has grown by almost 790 percent since 1980."