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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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