Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made progress earlier this year in fighting for changes to the mandatory minimum sentencing rules for nonviolent drug offenders. And now Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (a Democrat from Vermont) is picking Paul to help push for more progress.
Writes Burgess Everett of Politico:
“The Kentucky GOP senator will serve as the top witness during a panel hearing on reevaluating the effectiveness of mandatory guidelines used in courts to sentence drug offenders. The political odd couple has also drafted a bill together intended to give judges more flexibility on some drug cases.
‘Mandatory minimums are costly, unjust and do not make our country safer,’ Leahy said in a statement, ‘The states are leading the way in reversing this wrong-headed approach to law enforcement, and it is time for the federal government to follow that example.’”
Earlier this year, Paul made a public push to change the mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses, saying it unfairly affected minorities and was ruining young peoples’ lives just for one unequal mistake.
Our Kentucky gentleman also proposed a bill that would give judges more leeway in sentencing drug offenders, the Justice Safety Valve Act, and wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times called “The Madness of Mandatory Minimums.”
In it, Paul wrote:
“Many of them find themselves in prison sometimes for making one nonviolent mistake — for decades or more — because our federal government mandates it. Throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, federal mandatory minimum laws were implemented that forced judges to deliver sentences far lengthier than they would have if allowed to use their own discretion. The result has been decades of damage, particularly to young people.
We have all made mistakes in our youth, but we shouldn’t ruin people’s entire lives for making youthful mistakes. By today’s legal standards, the past two presidents could have been imprisoned for decades as punishment for alleged indiscretions in their youth.”
After Paul’s introduction of the Justice Safety Valve Act (and the ensuing public posturing in support of it), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would no longer pursue those mandatory minimum sentences for low level nonviolent drug offenders. Holder noted that the nation was “coldly efficient” when it came to jailing criminals, but that more incarcerations were not making the county safer.
In a statement released after Holder’s comments, Paul said the “administration’s involvement in this bipartisan issue is a welcome development,” and said he would continue to work with the administration to find a solution.
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