Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., formally launched his presidential campaign Tuesday with a speech in Louisville. Among the notable quotes from Paul’s speech was a comment seemingly meant to raise minority support by calling for reform of federal drug laws that disproportionately lead to incarceration of black Americans.
“I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed,” Paul said.
Paul went on to address other topics without expanding much on what kinds of laws he meant. But given his past comments, it’s not hard to guess he was talking about the war on drugs. “The war on drugs has become the most racially disparate outcome that you have in the entire country,” Paul said in November 2014. “Our prisons are full of black and brown kids. Three-fourths of the people in prison are black or brown.”
Lauren Galik, the Director of Criminal Justice Reform at Reason Foundation, said she was excited to hear a Republican presidential candidate campaigning on drug reform. “More than half of our federal prison population right now is there for drugs, many of which are African-American,” Galik told the Washington Examiner. “African Americans are more likely to receive a sentence that carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment than white individuals.”
Mandatory minimums disproportionately affect African American criminals compared to whites and Hispanics. “Although Black offenders in 2012 made up 26.3 percent of drug offenders convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, they accounted for 35.2 percent of the drug offenders still subject to that mandatory minimum at sentencing,” according to the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency.