Rand Paul takes on the prison industrial complex

Paul is co-sponsoring legislation with Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy (called the Justice Safety Valve Act) that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

The bill calls for authorizing judges to hand down less harsh sentences if they determine doing so would not jeopardize public safety. Under current law, only certain nonviolent, low-level, first-time drug offenses are subject to sentencing below the federal mandatory minimum.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the personal sphere, because, you would like to relax some of the laws for people who possess and are smoking marijuana. And you also in the Senate have voted against, in fact, to ban — rather, against a ban on synthetic recreational drugs.

Why are you more lenient on drug laws, sir?

PAUL: The main thing I've said is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time. So, I'm working with Senator Leahy. We have a bill on mandatory minimums.

There are people in jail for 37, 50, 45 years for nonviolent crimes. And that's a huge mistake. Or prisons are full of nonviolent criminals.

I don't want to encourage people to do it. I think even marijuana is a bad thing to do. I think it takes away your incentive to work and show up and do the things that you should be doing. I don't think it's a good idea.

I don't want to promote that but I also don't want to put people in jail who make the mistake. There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on in their 20s, they grow up and get married and they quit doing things like this, I don't want to put them in jail and ruin their lives.

Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don't get lucky. They don't have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things and I think it's a big mistake.

WALLACE: Actually, it would be the last three presidents, but who is counting?

On same-sex marriage, which goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Paul admitted that it's a "complicated issue." The libertarian part of him said it's a states-rights issue, but he still believes in "traditional marriage."

"I don't think the federal government should tell anybody or any state government how they should decide this," he said.

Because of his stances on issues like drones and drugs, Wallace said Paul seemed more of a hybrid type of candidate, not fitting into the traditional box of being a liberal or conservative. He asked him if a man could be elected president with such diverse views.

Paul said it was his willingness to be more open about social issues that makes him an ideal candidate to compete nationally for votes in a party that now has a reputation for being only for old white guys.

PAUL: I think we have a confusing spectrum, this left-right spectrum doesn't always work for people but I think because of some of that confusion, it shows that someone like myself, I think, could appeal to young people, independents and moderates, because, many of them do think it's a mistake to put people in jail for marijuana use and throw away the key. So, I think there are people who would like a less aggressive foreign policy. There are all kinds of issues that don't neatly fit in the left-right paradigm that I think would help, because we're not doing very well in a lot of these states, these purple and blue states. So, we do need a candidate that would appeal across the left-right paradigm.

Boosted by his nearly 13-hour filibuster waged against whether the U.S. government believed it could use drones against its own citizens on American soil, all of a sudden Rand Paul has become a big deal in American politics. Discussions about him being a player in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes are also being taken seriously — mostly because the Kentucky GOP senator is doing nothing to dissuade such talk.

Paul can also lay claim that he won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, though the value of that can be disputed. Other winners included his father, Ron Paul, who didn't exactly tally up a lot of delegates in his two runs for the presidency (but did acquire a strong cult following, especially amongst Libertarians, some of whom Rand has inherited).

Paul was the first guest on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, where everything was on the table, including where he stands on same-sex marriage, immigration reform, and why is he so soft on drugs? He's not of course, but he is refreshing because unlike too many others in D.C., Paul is questioning the prison industrial complex in America.


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