Mandatory Minimums

Why Republicans should follow Rand Paul’s lead

The Republican Party seems poised for a successful mid-term election. There has even been talk of a building “Republican wave,” should voter dissatisfaction intensify and solidify, though its far too early to say for sure what will happen.

But if a “Republican wave” does indeed happen this fall and the party takes control of the Senate, a goal that has proved to be out of reach in the past two cycles, GOP leaders and talking heads should be cautious in overstating what it means.

Yes, President Barack Obama is plagued by low approval ratings and rejection of Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. Voters aren’t too thrilled about the state of the economy or his handling of foreign policy.

But Republicans must realize that electoral success this doesn’t mean that voters have embraced the party, as polls almost universally show. In a two-party system at a time of malaise, the party not in control is the beneficiary of voter anger. This was true in 2006 when Democrats won control of Congress. It was true in 2010 when Republicans gained 63 seats on their way to winning the House of Representatives.

There is no denying that the Republican Party has a very real messaging problem, and party leaders realize it. That’s why the Republican National Committee released a report, The Growth and Opportunity Project, to try to figure out what went wrong in the 2012 election as well as try to find solutions to expand its reach.

Though that “autopsy,” so to speak, raised some excellent points, it alienated many of the grassroots activists that compromise part of the Republican base.

Here are the 3 reasons why it’s time to end mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders

There has been a big, bipartisan push in Congress to right a wrong in the United States’ approach to the drug policy. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), a measure that would end mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) has introduced companion legislation in the House.

Unfortunately, this much-needed, fiscally responsible reform has been stalled in both chambers thanks to leaders from both parties who haven’t accepted that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure.

Criminal law professor Alex Kreit explains why Congress should wise up, giving three reasons that mandatory minimum prison sentences are bad policy in the latest video from Learn Liberty, a project of the Institute for Human Studies.

Kreit’s first reason is that relative to other crimes, drug-related sentences are proportionally too long. For example, someone who has sold marijuana a couple of times and is reported to have had a gun will receive twice as much time as someone who hijacks an airplane or is convicted of second-degree murder.

Today in Liberty: Obama to escalate U.S. intervention against Syria, Labor unions want employers to pick up Obamacare costs

“The role of government is to strengthen our freedom — not deny it.” — Margaret Thatcher

— NSA whistleblower says he was trained as a spy: NBC News is teasing its interview with Edward Snowden with a clip of the NSA whistleblower explaining that he wasn’t simply a low-level hacker and technical analyst. “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden told Brian Williams. “So when they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.” Snowden was employed by Booz Allen, a defense and intelligence contractor, when he obtained documents and information about the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, but he also worked directly for the CIA. The Snowden interview, his first with an American television network, will air tonight on NBC at 10 pm.

Today in Liberty: Amateur hour at the Obama White House, Senate Republicans pushing for a new “Contract with America”

“I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.” — Edward Snowden

Today in Liberty: NAACP praises Rand Paul, GOP winning the Twitter war

“There is an ongoing national discussion about marijuana sentencing reform, and I want to make sure the Republicans are leading the charge. It’s an issue that can unite members of our community, regardless of party, race or gender.”Matthew Hurtt

— NAACP leader praises Rand Paul: The Kentucky Republican’s message on civil rights has won praise from the NAACP, a group not usually sympathetic to Republicans. “It is such a pervasive issue in our community,” NAACP President and CEO Lorraine Miller told NPR, “and, quite honestly, if we can get the ear of someone like Rand Paul, that helps us in trying to find solutions that make sense.” Paul has pushed issues like mandatory minimum reform, school choice, and restoring felon voting rights in various speeches around the country. The NAACP has contacted Paul about speaking to the organization.

Rand Paul: Republican has to undergo “a transformation”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) fears that the Republican Party will not win another presidential election unless it undergoes “a transformation” by developing a message that can reach young people and minorities:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made a bold prediction about the remaining presidential elections in his lifetime during an interview with Glenn Beck that aired Thursday.

“I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime … unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party,” Paul said evenly. “And it has to be a transformation. Not a little tweaking at the edges.”
[…]
The primary goal, Paul said, is to present the “ideas of liberty” to everyone.

“There are many people who are open among all these disaffected groups, who really aren’t steadfast supporters of Obama or an ideology,” Paul asserted. “I think they’re open to listening, but we have to have a better message and a better presentation of it.”

“There is a struggle going on within the Republican Party,” Paul admitted. “I tell people it’s not new, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of the fact that there is a struggle. And I will struggle to make the Republican Party a different party, a bigger party, a more diverse party, and a party that can win national elections again.”

Rand Paul praises DOJ’s criminal justice reform efforts

Attorney General Eric Holder’s effort to reform how prosecutors approach non-violent drug offenders has drawn praise from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has pushed criminal justice reform as part of a message to bridge the gap between Republicans and minorities.

Though he noted that there is much more work to be done on the issue in Congress, Paul expressed optimism that it signals a breakthrough.

“I am encouraged that the President and Attorney General agree with me that mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders promote injustice and do not serve public safety,” said Paul in a statement through his office.

“I look forward to working with them to advance my bipartisan legislation, the Justice Safety Valve Act, to permanently restore justice and preserve judicial discretion in federal cases,” he added. “I introduced this legislation in March with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy as a legislative fix to the very problem Attorney General Holder discussed today.”

During a speech yesterday at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Holder explained his rationale for the change in approach on criminal justice.

Justice Department to push criminal justice reforms, save taxpayers money

In a rare bit of good news from the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder announced long overdue federal criminal justice reforms that would avoid mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders:

In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.
[…]
Saying that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy push in both moral and economic terms.

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”
[…]
Under a policy memorandum being sent to all United States attorney offices on Monday, according to an administration official, prosecutors will be told that they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: their conduct did not involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.

Rand Paul: Locking People Up for Non-Violent Crimes is a “Mistake”

Rand Paul on

There has been movement from conservatives over the last few years to reform criminal justice laws at the state-level. Thanks to the Right on Crime initiative, many states have pursued these changes as a cost-saving measure.

For example, criminal justice reforms that focus on rehabiliation rather than imprisonment saved taxpayers some $2 billion in prison expansion costs. Additionally, these reforms reduced recidivism rates.

The shift away from “tough on crime” laws gained more traction at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor, urged conservatives to “lead the campaign to chang[e] the culture of corrections in America.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who also addressed this issue during his speech at CPAC, spoke more in-depth on the issue during an appearance over the weekend on Fox News Sunday.

When asked by Chris Wallace why he is “more lenient on drug laws,” Paul explained that he isn’t interested in legalization, but rather to stop putting people in jail for long periods of time.

“There are people in jail for 37, 50, 45 years for nonviolent crimes. And that’s a huge mistake,” Paul told Wallace. “Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals.”

Paul was clear in his personal opposition to the use of marijuana, which he said “takes away your incentive to work and show up and do the things that you should be doing.” But he explained that he didn’t want people to go to jail for making that mistake.


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