Rand Paul testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about mandatory sentencing

Rand Paul on mandatory minimums

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had the opportunity to testify yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about mandatory minimum sentences. Sen. Paul offered an array of examples that illustrate the brutal impact of both mandatory sentencing and the failed war on drugs.

In 2004, then candidate for the U.S. Senate Barack Obama criticized the ongoing war on drugs as “an utter failure.” While running for president, Obama advocated for a less repressive national drug policy but once he took office, President Obama changed his tune.

According to Sen. Paul’s statement and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one third of African-American males are not allowed to vote today and that’s due to the U.S. war on drugs and its disproportionate impact on minorities. Reports published by the Huffington Post show that African-Americans represent 62 percent of drug offenders while they constitute 12 percent of the country’s population.

 

The unsettling data also shows that the biggest issue with mandatory sentencing laws is how it affects those who live in urban areas the most, which happens to be where the minorities and the poorest live.

“The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white,” Paul explained, “but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.” It might not be too hard for the public to understand that poor Latinos and African-Americans in the inner city are easier to round up and arrest than those in rural areas, but advocates for a tougher approach to drug offenses have a harder time accepting the consequences of the draconian mandatory minimums they support.

Sen. Paul mentioned real-life examples of young men who had their lives impacted forever because of mandatory sentencing laws. Those who are affected by the war on drugs the most are non-violent first-time offenders that will always have a hard time getting a job once they are released because of their sentences.

Paul explained that “mandatory sentencing automatically imposes a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes.” These laws keep judges from doing their job by imposing strict sentences for offenses that are frequently related to drugs. Judges aren’t able to analyze a case by its own merits when mandatory minimums are in place, regardless of the circumstances.

According to Sen. Paul, “America’s prison population has quadrupled” since mandatory sentencing began. The number of felons is high but what is truly shocking is the fact that one-third of the 25.4 million Americans who were arrested on drug charges since 1980 happen to be African-American.

By offering his arguments against the mandatory minimum sentences, Sen. Paul urged the committee to allow judges to do their job, which can only be done once we begin to put an end to mandatory minimum sentencing.


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