LOUISVILLE, Ky. —Two lawmakers — often at odds with each other –are joining forces.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, appeared Monday at the Louisville Urban League to support criminal justice reform.
This is the last week of the 115th Congress.
“Everybody call Sen. McConnell’s office. Ask him to allow them to vote on the First Step Act,” Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said.
The Louisville Urban League hosted supporters of the First Step Act.
The bill would, among other things, ease federal mandatory minimums and give prisoners credit for completing vocational and rehabilitative programs.
“From my perspective, the way I look at this is that I was once a kid, and I was once an imperfect kid and made mistakes. Three of the last four presidents admitted they made mistakes with either drugs or alcohol,” Paul said.
They also countered concerns the bill is too soft on crime.
“If you have a whole lot of people in prison for nonviolent crimes, you don’t have as much space in prison for violent crimes,” Paul said.
It’s part of a broader effort to rethink criminal justice.
“Recidivism is basically a function of people who are not successfully reintegrated and don’t feel that there’s any option available to them,” Yarmuth said.
“We approach this as a workforce issue and there are hundreds or thousands of people that are kept out of the workforce, not able to seek employment, take care of their families, because of a criminal record from a mistake in the past,” said Greater Louisville Inc. CEO Kent Oyler.
At the state level, supporters want the restoration of felon voting rights and lower fees for expungement.
“Legislation will be introduced to have the state auditor look at what the actual costs are, because that $500 fee is arbitrary and, I submit, is too high,” Kentucky State Sen. Gerald Neal said.
McConnell said last week that he said he doesn’t believe there is enough time to hold a vote on the First Step Act. He’s noted how divisive it is within his party.