|U.S. Senator Mike Lee, R, Utah|
I think the conservative case of criminal justice reform is very clear and comes from a couple of angles. One, the conservative principle of the punishment meeting the crime and personal responsibility and so-forth. Someone should explain to me why 3-5 years in prison is a just sentence for being in possession of pot, or even cocaine, when all they’re being charged with is illegal possession of an illegal narcotic. Then the other reason being from a fiscally conservative standpoint. Locking away millions of people in prison is very expensive. Especially when we don’t get much for that investment when you look at how violent our prisons are. The fact that we have so many people returning to prison after they get released. The poor health care, lack of opportunity for self-improvement, all the inmates that have serious mental health issues that don’t get treated and I could go on.
This is not about going soft, or hard on crime. We know the dangerous consequences when serious crimes are not taken seriously and when lighter crimes are treated harshly. You get a country where people don’t feel safe to leave their homes when you go too soft. And an overly expensive and wasteful criminal justice system when you go too hard on crimes where the offender could just have been in rehab, a halfway house, done their time in county jail, given probation, or a combination of all of these factors. This should not be about being tough or, soft, or even liberal, or conservative. Even though as a Liberal I believe we have the right approach here. This should be about being smart on crime and being just with our criminal justice system. The sanctions meeting the crimes and the sanctions coming with opportunity for self-improvement so the offender doesn’t end up back in the criminal justice system.
The reasons why you have Conservatives like Senator Mike Lee, coming together with Progressives like Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and why Conservatives like Newt Gingrich are coming together with Progressives and Liberals outside of Congress, is because the Center-Right and Center-Left both see the waste an injustice in the criminal justice system. And in an era with low economic and job growth and high debt and deficits, you have the two sides looking at ways to cut waste in government and get more bang from our taxpayer bucks. The criminal justice system is a great place to start. When you consider that we have two-million people in prison in America with so many non-violent offenders being sent away for long prison sentences. When everyone involved especially the public would have been better off with a lighter approach. And reserve our harsh sentences for our violent offenders.