Conservative lawmakers fight over criminal justice reform bill


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.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it's an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 Utah team in June, 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 Utah News at 4 Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Chief Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Utah's only statewide political talk show, Inside Utah Politics Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Read More...

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