Lee Makes Case for Reform in Criminal Justice Hearing

Monday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) participated in Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.


Senator Lee is an original co-sponsor of this legislation, which has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. President Obama is a fervent advocate for criminal justice reform, and dedicated his most recent weekly address to the topic.

Below you will find the text of Senator Lee’s opening remarks, which can be viewed here, in addition to his exchange with Deputy Attorney General Sally Quinn Yates. His questioning of former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, Brett L. Tolman can be viewed here.

“Since my time as a prosecutor, I have been concerned by the excesses of our federal criminal justice system.  That’s why, more than two years ago now, Senator Durbin and I first introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act.  We had seen welcome reductions in our crime rate, and we wanted to couple that progress with reforms that would make sentencing more fair and efficient without reducing public safety.  The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act achieves that goal.

“Our criminal justice system has to be pliable enough to apply in many different situations. Prosecutors and judges must have the ability to impose lengthy sentences on serious offenders who pose the greatest threat to public safety. So this bill leaves untouched the maximum penalty levels that exist under current law, and for some offenders, it increases those punishments.  It also does not eliminate any mandatory minimum sentences but instead takes a targeted approach, reducing the harshest mandatory penalties and providing limited relief for low-level offenders with limited criminal history.

“It is not just to keep people in jail until they are 70 or 80 just because they sold drugs three times fifty to sixty years ago. Unfortunately, this is precisely the situation we have created with our lengthy mandatory prison sentences, as those of you who have heard me tell the story of Weldon Angelos well know.  Sentences like these are just too high: they impose real costs, both human and financial; they are out of step with American tradition; and they have to be fixed.  It’s not sufficient anymore to say that sentences like these – sentences that don’t fit the crime – are the cost of doing business.  They aren’t – we can fix them, and this bill does.”