Op-ed: Lee shows principled leadership in criminal justice reform

From the Salt Lake Tribune. By Mark Holden
First Published May 19 2016 04:06PM • Last Updated May 19 2016 04:55 pm

Our nation’s criminal justice system has been in dire need of reform for far too long — a realization that cuts across political and ideological lines. That’s why Utah’s U.S. Sen. Mike Lee should be praised for leading a bipartisan coalition to introduce the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

To understand how important this bill is, we must first look at just how in need of repair our criminal justice system is. From 1980 to 2012, the federal prison population grew almost 800 percent, with the current total at over 2 million federal and state prisoners. Many of these offenders are non-violent, especially in the federal system. Over 2,200 individuals were sentenced to federal prison last year for simple drug possession…

Perhaps most compelling is that the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act would allow qualifying inmates to earn reduced sentences by completing educational and faith-based programs to help them become less likely to return to criminal behavior…

By reducing crime, recidivism and incarceration rates, this bill would keep more families together, make our communities safer and make law enforcement’s difficult job easier. It even has the support of over 400 organizations, including influential law enforcement organizations and federal, state and local prosecutor groups.

The truth is, we don’t need to be “harder” on crime, we need to be smarter on crime. This legislation is an important first step for doing so at the federal level. And Lee’s principled leadership is helping to break down barriers to opportunity — especially for the least fortunate — and restore justice at a time when we need it most.

See full piece