WASHINGTON (AP) — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday implored Senate colleagues to support a sweeping overhaul of federal sentencing guidelines, saying they disproportionately affect minorities and are reminiscent of Jim Crow laws.
“There is no justice here,” said the libertarian and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “It is wrong and it needs to change.”
Paul recounted from memory to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee several cases he said he’d learned about where mandatory minimums had resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
He said one man, Edward Clay, was arrested with less than 2 ounces of cocaine. Even as a first-time offender, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison because of mandatory sentencing guidelines, Paul said.
“Each case should be judged on its own merits,” Paul said. “Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening.”
Paul said when he described the effects of mandatory minimum sentences, “you might think I was talking about Jim Crow laws. The war on drugs is disproportionately affecting black males.”
He was referring to post-Civil War laws that effectively preserved racial segregation and unfair treatment for minorities.
Paul has drafted legislation with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to give judges wider latitude to craft their own sentences as one way to relieve prison overcrowding and bring down the exploding costs of running prisons. The committee is looking at that bill and another that focuses on waiving mandatory minimum prison terms in some drug cases.
There are more than 218,000 federal prisoners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a number that grown from about 25,000 federal prisoners in the 1980s, when many mandatory penalties were put in place.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first step in what supporters hope will be legislative action by the end of the year. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet scheduled a meeting to discuss the bills affecting mandatory sentences. But Leahy has said repeatedly he would like to press forward on the issue.
In the House, there are no comparable sentencing reform bills and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has voiced skepticism. But a number of House Republicans have backed different reform efforts and have said they are watching closely what the Senate does.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the committee heard from two supporters of reform efforts, Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney in Utah, and Marc Levin, the policy director for the Right on Crime Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
But another witness, Scott Burns, the executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, said mandatory minimums had been a useful tool for state and local prosecutors and questioned the push to change them.
“Why now?” Burns said. “With crime at record lows, why are we looking at sweeping changes?”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas said efforts to correct problems were noble, but “we have to be careful not to legislate by anecdote. We have all heard legal horror stories.”
Leahy pleaded with his colleagues to work together on the issue, saying it is one of the most important the committee is considering. To bring home the impact, he asked a dozen or so family members of prisoners sentenced to mandatory minimums to stand up.
The family members, who had traveled from Montana, Texas, Utah and Illinois, among other places, stood and clutched photos of their loved ones as Leahy closed the committee hearing.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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