Criminal justice reform is one of Sen. Rand Paul’s most significant battles. During a recent campaign rally, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) talked to supporters about the reason why. To illustrate his position, Paul brought up Kalief Browder, the young African American whose story of groundless imprisonment was featured in The New Yorker.
Worried that our nation has forgotten about the presumption of innocence, Paul urged the crowd to try to understand why young black men are rioting in the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson. And as he made his case, he appeared to echo the words of record producer, rapper, and entrepreneur Dr. Dre.
“The presumption of innocence. This is a big deal,” said Paul, continuing, “We now we have [a] government that is not presuming innocence anymore.”
“The war on drugs has locked up a lot of young people. But it’s really disproportionately locked up a lot of young black people and a lot of young brown people. Why? It’s not that the law is overtly racist, it’s because there’s more crime in the cities and there happens to be more African Americans in the city.”
In the song The Watcher, which is featured in Dr. Dre’s 2001 album, the rapper explains that “cops are anxious” to put blacks in jail. An observation that matches Paul’s comments regarding the war on drugs. But Dre goes further:
“They wanna hang us, see us dead, enslave us/ Keep us trapped in the same place we were raised in/ Then they wonder why we act so outrageous.”
To Paul, the treatment blacks and latinos receive from law enforcement is the very root of the problem:
“We’ve locked up a whole generation of young black men and put them in jail, sometimes for ten, fifteen years. … And you say, ‘well, that’s not me, I don’t understand why these people are always yelling, and why they are angry in our cities.’ Kalief Browder was 16-years-old when he was arrested. He was a black kid in the Bronx. He was accused of a crime and he was sent to Rikers Island. Without bail. And he spent three years there. Two years in solitary confinement. He was beaten by the guards and by gangs in the jail. They have videotape of him being beaten. He tried to commit suicide, was finally released. But never taken to trial.”
To Dre, it’s clear why young blacks are so angry when they finally leave prison after being locked up without a former trial or because of non-violent drug crimes.
“… every time you let the animal out [of] cages/ It’s dangerous to people who look like strangers.”
According to DrugWarFacts.org, more than half of federal prisoners serving sentences of more than a year were convicted of drug-related offenses between 2001 and 2013. In 2013, 51 percent of the federal prison population were in jail for possession, trafficking, or other drug crimes.
By 2012, drug offenders comprised 16 percent of the total state prison population across America.
In 2011, over 40 percent of inmates convicted of drug-related charges serving time in state prisons were black, over 29 percent were white, and over 21 percent were Hispanic.
To Rand Paul, it’s time to change all of this.
“I think they should get a second chance. Anybody in here made a mistake when they were a kid. … When you see people angry and you don’t understand why people are angry, [remember]: there’s no excuse for rioting, there’s no excuse for violence, but we need to understand what’s wrong. We need to see if there’s a way we can fix it.”
Bringing the Republican Party back to focusing on the entire Bill of Rights, says Paul, could make it happen:
“If we are the party that is part of that, part of trying to make it better, let’s say that we were the party of the entire bill of rights. We would be the party that believes in the Sixth Amendment as much as we do the Second Amendment, we’re gonna rock and roll, we’re gonna win every election.”
This article was originally published here.