Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws need to be changed in part because they disproportionately target African-Americans and Hispanics.
“If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago. Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the War on Drugs,” Paul told fellow lawmakers. “The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.”
Paul was testifying about the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which he is co-sponsoring along with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
The measure will expand the so-called “safety valve” allowing federal judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in qualifying drug cases.
This is also part of Paul’s larger outreach effort to racial minorities, which has sparked a discussion among civil rights leaders and lawmakers in his home state.
Paul courting black voters in Louisville, for instance, has been received with mixed reviews thus far.
Several cite Paul’s voting-record and many still view the libertarian-leaning Republican senator with skepticism given his controversial comments on race.
From LEO Weekly:
Eddie Woods — the founder and CEO of the LIFE Institute, a west Louisville youth outreach and mentoring group — tells LEO he was invited to attend Paul’s panel, but declined.
“I’ve probably read too much about Mr. Paul’s history and who he’s been associated with,” says Woods. “He’s never really addressed it to the point of me changing my opinion of him.”
Others such as Louisville Councilwoman Attic Scott—who spoke with Paul about vacant properties in her district—have said it’s important black voters give the senator a chance.
And there is at least once prominent voice in Louisville’s African-American community is embracing Paul—fully.
From the Rev. Kevin Cosby:
Cosby is president of Simmons College of Kentucky and senior pastor at St. Stephen Baptist Church, the state’s larges black congregation.
In April, Cosby told WFPL he doesn’t have to agree with Paul on every issue but that the senator is making substantive efforts to address concerns Democrats are ignoring such as school choice and economic investment.
Earlier this week, Cosby, who has hosted Paul at his church, compared the GOP senator’s criticism of President Obama’s drone policy to Martin Luther King Jr.