Dem Senator: U.S. Criminal Justice System ‘Still the Envy of Most Countries’


Lee told the audience he vowed to tackle criminal justice reform when he took office in 2011. Lee specifically mentioned the importance of better matching sentences with the severity of an offense to make the system more “humane” and “effective.”

“When we stretch out the resources through extensive sentences, we run the risk of ignoring other aspects of our criminal justice system that if property implemented could make all of us safer,” Lee, former assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Utah, said.

Lee also said one of the reasons there has been nearly a tenfold increase in the federal criminal population since 1980 is the nation has “over-criminalized” federal law.

“I think we need to come to terms with the fact that there are good reasons why, traditionally, historically, we’ve allowed most crimes to be prosecuted at the state level rather than through federal legislation and federal law enforcement agencies,” he said. “A state system isn’t perfect and may have lots of errors but a state system is more easily turned around and we also run the risk when we over-federalize criminal law that we might act disproportionately in some areas relative to a corresponding state law offense.”