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Rand Paul: 'We Went Crazy on the War on Drugs'

Jacob Sullum | Sep. 17, 2013 | Reason

During a community meeting in a mostly black neighborhood of Louisville yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pressed his case for sentencing reform. "We went crazy on the War on Drugs," he said. "We have people in jail for life for nonviolent drug crimes. I think this is a crime in and of itself."

Paul is sponsoring legislation aimed at preventing such injustices. Last spring he and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which according to a press release from Paul's office "expands the so-called 'safety valve' that allows judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in qualifying drug cases to all federal crimes." It actually does quite a bit more than that. The existing safety valve has strict criteria: A nonviolent drug offender is ineligible, for instance, if he has more than one criminal history point, possessed a gun (even if he never used it), or played any sort of supervisory role. Paul's bill includes no such conditions, and it applies to all federal crimes, not just drug offenses. It would add a new subsection to Title 18, Section 3553 creating this general rule:

Notwithstanding any provision of law other than this subsection, the court may impose a sentence below a statutory minimum if the court finds that it is necessary to do so in order to avoid violating the requirements of subsection (a).

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