Sep 19, 2013

(Huffington Post) -- At a packed public hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) compared the war on drugs to the racist policies of the Jim Crow era.

"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," Paul said. "Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the war on drugs."

"The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white," he said, "but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino."

Paul was arguing against mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which require judges and prosecutors to impose severe penalties against those convicted of low-level drug crimes.

A growing number of conservatives have criticized such laws in recent years. At the hearing, Marc Levin, the policy director of the Right on Crime Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative group that advocates for prison reforms, noted that Texas has reduced its prison population and crime rate while expanding its use of recidivism-reducing programs and other alternatives to incarceration.

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