“The safety of law-abiding citizens has always been a core principle of conservatism” says Sen. Mike Lee. Which is why criminal justice reform needs to be passed. Commonsense reform will increase trust in the criminal justice system and law enforcement making it easier to police communities. Lee says excessive sentences breakup families and weaken communities. He believes now is the best time to pass a bipartisan reform bill that deals with mandatory minimums and non-violent offenders.
- Is there enough bi-partisan support for a criminal justice reform bill?
- Will decreasing sentences for non-violent offenders increase trust in communities?
- Will addressing racial bias be a point of disagreement with a bi-partisan bill?
“The first duty of the government,” President Reagan said in 1981 and President Trump tweeted recently, “is to protect the people, not to live their lives.” The security of law-abiding citizens has always been a core principle of conservatism.
Although violent crime increased during President Obama’s last two years in office, it declined during Trump’s first year in office. We need to keep this momentum going. And criminal justice reform can help us do this in two ways.
First, the reform of common sense sentences can increase confidence in the criminal justice system, making it easier for law enforcement personnel to reach police communities. Currently, federal mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses can lead to unfair outcomes that undermine public confidence in our justice system.
For instance, when I served as an assistant United States attorney in Salt Lake City, Weldon Angelos — a young father of two without a criminal record — was convicted of selling three dime marijuana bags to a paid informant for a short time.
These were not violent crimes. No one was hurt. But because Angelos had been in possession of a gun at the time he sold the drugs (a gun which was neither brandished nor discharged in connection with the offense), the judge was forced by federal law to give him a 55-year prison sentence. The average federal sentence for assault is just two years. The average murderer only gets 15 years. While acknowledging the obvious excessiveness of the sentence, the judge explained that the applicable federal statutes gave him no authority to impose a less-severe prison term, noting that “only Congress can fix this problem.”