Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and other senators, are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of the federal guidelines for prison sentences, saying the current guidelines disproportionately hurt minorities.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, the Kentucky lawmaker placed the lion's share of the blame on the war on drugs.
"The war on drugs has disproportionately affected young black males," Sen. Paul told the panel. "The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times more likely to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate."
"The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white," he continued. "But three-fourths of the people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino."
"There is no justice here," he charged. "It is wrong and it needs to change."
Senate lawmakers reasoned that each case should be judged on its own merits rather than have harsh sentences imposed because of the current guidelines.
Today, there are more than 218,000 federal prisoners. But in the 1980s there were only about 25,000. The growth came after the mandatory penalties were put in place.
Both the Senate and the House are considering measures to reform the guidelines.