Tag Archives: NAACP

Obama Praises Rand Paul, Koch Brothers in NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Speech

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia at the NAACP national convention, which can be seen in the above-embedded video player, promoting criminal justice reform. In his remarks, he argued that tough-on-crime War-on-Drugs policies have slipped out of control, pushing the US incarceration rate beyond that of China. He also commented on the disparate racial outcomes of arbitrarily-enforced criminal laws targeting non-violent offenders, noting that Latinos and African-Americans are disproportionately represented in US prison populations.

During the speech, President Obama struck a bipartisan tone and, as The Hill points out, commented on some of the strange ideological bedfellows that have coalesced around the movement to reform America’s criminal justice system and victimless criminal laws.

[RELATED: Billionaires Charles Koch, George Soros to Team Up on Criminal Justice Reform in 2015]

As Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul has said — no, and to his credit, he’s been consistent on this issue — imprisoning large numbers of non-violent drug offenders for long periods of time ‘costs the taxpayers’ money without making them any safer,'” said President Obama.

After continuing to highlight the financial and human costs of the mass incarceration of non-violent Americans, Obama said optimistically, “I am feeling more hopeful today because even now, when, let’s face it, it seems like Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on anything — a lot of them agree on this. In fact, today, back in Washington, Republican senators from Utah and Texas are joining Democratic senators from New Jersey and Rhode Island to talk about how Congress can pass meaningful criminal justice reform this year. That’s good news.”

He continued, “That doesn’t happen very often. And it’s not just senators. This is a cause that’s bringing people in both houses of Congress together. It’s created some unlikely bedfellows. You’ve got Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. You’ve got Americans for Tax Reform and the ACLU. You’ve got the NAACP and the Koch brothers. No, you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve got to call it like you see it. There are states from Texas and South Carolina to California and Connecticut who have acted to reduce their prison populations over the last five years and seen their crime rates fall. That’s good news.

In his speech, Obama advocated for policy positions including lowering or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, empowering judges to exercise discretion in non-violent cases, and restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their time. He also encouraged companies to follow the leads of others such as Koch Industries who no longer ask job applicants if they have been convicted of a crime.

CNN notes that, on Monday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 low-level drug offenders who were facing long prison stints. On Thursday, he visited the El Reno Correctional Institution in El Reno, OK as a part of his criminal justice reform push, making him the first sitting US president to visit a federal prison.

Watch our latest “Consider This” episode on the drug war and non-violent offenders:


Rand Paul visits Ferguson, urges people to vote

After another shooting a few days ago of a second black citizen by police officers, Sen. Rand Paul went to Ferguson, Mo. Friday, to meet with black leaders in the area, including leaders of the local NAACP chapter.  

While in Ferguson, Paul took part in a 45-minute “listening session,” which has been described as a more informal question and answer session.  Paul was joined by local pastors, business owners, and representatives from other social change groups, such as the Urban League, at this session.  

“I came to Ferguson today to listen to leaders in the community and to learn more about how we can fix the problems of criminal injustice together,” said Paul, according to the Daily Caller.

During the session, one person asked Paul if he thought a more diverse policing force would help with the issue of racial tensions between police and black communities across the country.  Paul responded by saying if people wanted to see change, they should vote appropriately at the ballot boxes.

“My opinion is they have a great deal of power and if they wanted an African-American police chief they’d get it in one election if they just go vote for the mayor and register people,” Paul said, according to Politico.  “Violence gets nowhere and it actually sends us backwards… If that energy, and some anger, if that were channeled into registering voters and getting people out to vote, then you can have constructive changes.”

After Michael Brown was shot over the summer in Ferguson, about 3,200 people in Ferguson, which is about a seventh of the population, have registered to vote in the upcoming elections.  

Liberal registration booths were setup near where Brown was shot in Ferguson, and this has made some Republicans upset, saying this has only fanned “political flames.”

Paul on the other hand, has said he is not concerned about party lines and simply wants to get more people to vote.