WASHINGTON (ABC4 News) Utah Senator Mike Lee is working hard in Washington on criminal justice reform.
His “First Step Act” has the support of President Donald Trump, but Lee’s conservative Republican colleagues are against the bill saying it’s “soft on crime.”
Conservative lawmakers are fighting each other over whether the criminal justice reform bill gives people a second chance or a get out jail free card.
Senator Lee says low-level offenders are “warehoused” for decades in jails and prisons.
“It hurts everyone, and it leads to an increased crime rate making Americans less safe rather than more,” said Lee.
“What started as an effort to fix recidivism, to help a prisoner get on their feet and not remain a menace to society when they pay their debts to society has now turned into a sentencing reduction bill,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
If enacted the First Step Act would give certain offenders credit for good behavior. They could serve portions of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement.
The bill would also restrict mandatory minimum sentences and eliminate the three strikes law and long jail terms for certain offenses.
Supporters of the bill say most inmates are eventually released with half of them ending up back behind bars.
This bill requires participation job and life skill programs in order to break that cycle. The bill was updated to narrow the types of offenders who qualify.
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says he’s certain the First Step will make Americans safer.
“It will lower crime, how do we know it will lower crime? because we’re using methods that have already been tried in states and have worked,” said Cuccinelli.
Supporters say it’s time for the federal government to catch up.