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November 21, 2017

Senator Mike Lee explains how "conservative approach to lawmaking" drives his advocacy for federal sentencing reforms

Lee_1x1Pew's Public Safety Performance Project has this notable new Q&A with Mike Lee under the subheading "A U.S. senator and former assistant U.S. attorney discusses crime and punishment, and how his views on both have changed."  I recommend the entire Q&A, and the final three Qs and As struck me as worth reprinting here:

Q: How has your conversion on criminal justice influenced your career?

A: When I got to the Senate, I remembered what that [Judge Paul Cassell in the Angelos case] had said, and I realized that I had become one of the people who could help fix this problem.  So that’s what I decided to do.  I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be easy, but I also knew it was important.  So I started looking for allies, and that led me to team up with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on our legislation.  It’s easy to say you want to be tough on crime and go along with any and every attempt to increase penalties, including minimum mandatory penalties. But to be effective, a criminal justice system must be seen as legitimate.  And for too long, our federal sentencing laws have required punishments that just don’t fit the crime.

Q: Have you encountered any interesting reactions to the change in your views?

A: Most of it is encouraging. Most people I talk to, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, are glad that somebody is doing this. And they’re glad to see me involved. There are some who aren’t. There are some who get upset and pound their chest and say, “You need to take criminals and lock them up and you need to throw away the key. We’ve got to be harder on crime and harder on criminals rather than softer.” So yes, there are those who take that approach, and most of those people would probably describe themselves as conservatives. Regardless of whether you consider that a conservative approach or not, I don’t think it’s a particularly thoughtful one. I don’t think it’s a particularly helpful one. It does us no good to be harsh just for the sake of harshness.  Harshness itself isn’t an end objective.  We want to be smart in the way we punish crime.  We want to be effective. Public safety is the end result we’re trying to achieve.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Some people ask me, “Why are you doing this even though you’re a Republican? And a conservative Republican at that?”  And the answer is that I don’t view criminal justice reform as incompatible with being a conservative; in fact, I’m doing this because I’m a conservative. Conservatives purport to be conservative because, among other things, conservatives believe we should take great care when government intervenes to deprive someone of liberty or property.  There’s no greater due process deprivation than when the government puts someone away, either wrongfully or for a longer period of time than is just.  So for me, this is a natural outgrowth of my conservative approach to lawmaking.

November 21, 2017 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


If only the GOP had control of the government we could have progress.

Posted by: whatever | Nov 21, 2017 1:17:30 PM


Actually, if the Constitutionalists like Lee had power we could have tremendous progress. But the Deep State is in charge, Democrat or Republican.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Nov 22, 2017 11:26:23 AM

Reminder. Scalia was to the right of this guy. Led the intellectual charge against mandatory sentencing guidelines. Ideology is unimportant when rent seeking interests arise. Deep state = rent seekers.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 22, 2017 1:20:26 PM

Mike Lee, at least before his attraction to teenagers came out, endorsed Roy Moore for the Senate. Not the sort of "Constitutionalist" I want in the Senate. I appreciate his position on certain criminal justice matters though not on others (e.g., in the past it was touched upon that the PPACA, which he wants to slash, help those those convicted of crimes in a number of ways).

Posted by: Joe | Nov 23, 2017 10:05:49 AM

Joe. No perv supporters in Senate. I like some of his policies.

I can't take it anymore.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 23, 2017 1:53:48 PM

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