February 6, 2014
Senator Rand Paul telling fellow conservatives to focus on criminal justice reform
Regular readers know I have become a huge fan of Senator Rand Paul because he seem eager to highlight that his principled disaffinity for big government extends to modern criminal justice system. In turn, I was excited, but not all that surprised, to see this Politico report concerning a recent speech by Senator Paul in which he preached about the importance (and political value) of conservatives giving serious attention to criminal justice reforms:
In the speech sponsored by the American Principles Project, a deeply conservative organization with a special focus on social issues, Paul offered up jokes and wry commentary. But he also sought to bridge the oft-perceived gap between libertarians and strict social conservatives.
“‘Libertarian’ …doesn’t mean ‘libertine,’” he said. “To many of us libertarian means freedom and liberty. But we also see that freedom needs tradition.”
He added: “I don’t see libertarianism as, you can do whatever you want. There is a role for government, there’s a role for family, there’s a role for marriage, there’s a role for the protection of life.” Paul stressed that the value of marriage is economic, as well as “moral” and “religious,” and that those virtues can be communicated through families and communities as well as through the government.
He also singled out criminal justice reform as one area that could help the Republican Party expand and improve its brand. “I think there are things we can and should talk about, as Christians, who believe in forgiveness,” he said. “I think the criminal justice system should have some element of forgiveness.”
Paul, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, has been a crusader on the issue of reforming sentencing for drug-related crimes and finding alternative methods for dealing with non-violent drug offenders. He noted that that’s not a typical Republican policy priority, but advocated talking “about these issues” and taking them to minority communities, where, he said, disproportionate numbers of people are hit hard by tough drug policies.
“I think these are things we can look at,” Paul said. To applause, he continued, “I’m not talking about legalization. I’m talking about making the criminal justice system more fair and giving people a second chance when they serve their time.”
Some recent and older related posts:
- Rand Paul begins forceful pitch in campaign against federal mandatory minimums
- "The most interesting part of [Rand Paul's] speech was his widely anticipated defense of drug law reform."
- NAACP head recognizes Tea Party favors some progressive criminal justice reforms (and sometimes more than Democrats)
- Senator Rand Paul talking up restoring voting and gun rights for felons, as well as sentencing reform
- GOP leaders now getting what Mitt missed: drug war reform may make good politics (as well as being principled) for small-government conservatives
February 6, 2014 at 08:10 AM | Permalink
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On February 19th, Senator Rand Paul will testify before the Kentucky Senate, in support of a Bill for the restoration of voting rights to former felons, after they have completed their sentences, including probation and parole. Kentucky is one of only three states where the voting rights of former felons are not automatically restored after they complete their sentences. The other states are Iowa and Florida (which has 850,000 former felons!). The outcome of the 2000 Presidential election probably turned on the former felons in Florida, who couldn't register to vote. Interestingly, there is a Bill pending before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which would require the states to register former felons to vote in Federal elections, since there is no provision in Federal law that prevents felons from voting. Historically, however, the Feds have piggy-backed upon voter registration by the 50 Secretaries of State, who are constrained by their state voter registration laws. In Kentucky, it will take a Constitutional Amendment to change the law preventing the automatic restoration of voting rights to former felons. First, the Legislature will have to pass the Bill (which Gov. Steve Beshear has said that he will sign) and then the voters will have to approve it. This Bill has passed the Kentucky House of Representatives for 8 consecutive years, but have not previously had a hearing or even a Committee vote in th state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Former Senate President David Williams (who had opposed the Bill) left in 2012 to become a Circuit Court Judge, and then Senator Paul began pushing his fellow republicans on this issue. It looks like the Bill will pass the Kentucky Legislature in 2014, and be placed upon the November 2014 ballot.
Posted by: Jim Gormley | Feb 6, 2014 8:32:46 AM
Interesting. I'm not sure that federal law could necessarily control state voting criteria (the argument being that Congress can regulate how an election is run, not the substance of voter qualifications). That's an issue that's been hotly debated with the VRA and probably isn't worth diving into (my personal view is also that such laws, while Constitutional under the 14th Amendment and Court precedent, should also have to pass strict scrutiny).
From a policy perspective, however, disenfranchisement of felons greatly skews our democracy and is something that desperately needs to be remedied. I also think that incarcerated prisoners should either be allowed to vote or not have their population counted for census purposes in the state they are incarcerated in (there are jurisdictions that have prisons in them that would fall far short of the necessary population of a Congressional district otherwise and can have their population have a vastly larger influence per person that a district without a prison).
Jim Gormley, do you have a link about only three states not having automatic restoration of voting privileges? It's my understanding that most states do not allow felons to vote.
Posted by: Erik M | Feb 6, 2014 9:28:20 AM
“I think there are things we can and should talk about, as Christians, who believe in forgiveness,” he said. “I think the criminal justice system should have some element of forgiveness.”
It does. It's called executive clemency. For those who think it's underused, call the White House.
"He noted that that’s not a typical Republican policy priority, but advocated talking “about these issues” and taking them to minority communities, where, he said, disproportionate numbers of people are hit hard by tough drug policies."
A disproportionate number of minorities are hit hard by drug USE, yes. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the exception. A disproportionate number of the people harmed by heroin and other very dangerous drugs are black.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 6, 2014 12:53:18 PM