Rand Paul talks criminal justice reform, but not politics, during stop at west Louisville business

10/02/2015 08:07 PM

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul visited a commercial and residential filter manufacturer in Louisville’s West End on Friday, highlighting his efforts to enact far-reaching criminal justice reforms.

But the GOP presidential candidate didn’t touch one topic the gathered media was eager to press: politics.

On Saturday, Paul will be a featured participant in a rally for Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin at Kentucky State University in Frankfort. During Wednesday’s debate on Kentucky Sports Radio, however, Bevin said he would vote for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in the presidential contest after his first choice, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, sidelined his presidential campaign.

Paul was asked about Bevin’s comment while leaving America’s Finest Filters, but he made clear that he wanted to keep the focus on the business rather than politics.

“It’ll take away from basically the story that we’re trying to promote is that there are good things going on in the West End and we want to make sure that by doing so that maybe some people will see the story on television and say, ‘You know what? I want to help out with that,’ or, ‘I want to help out with some of the addiction programs that he’s (Michael White, CEO of America’s Finest Filters and founder of Kentucky Recovery Resource Center and Our Father’s House) doing down there,’” Paul said. “So I think today we’re just going to keep it non-political.”

“Of course your campaign goes with you wherever you go,” WDRB-TV’s Lawrence Smith said.

“Yeah, I know,” Paul replied. “It’s hard, but we’re going to still try though.”

Paul faces other questions about his presidential campaign after posting a $2.5 million haul in the latest fundraising quarter, a drop from his $8 million total in the previous quarter, according to The Washington Post

The Courier-Journal also reports that Paul is on the cusp of CNBC’s 3 percent polling qualifier, averaging 2.75 percent in polls recognized by the network for its Oct. 28 debate in Boulder, Colo., with surveys between Sept. 17 and Oct. 21 counted to determine participants on the main debate stage.

Paul stuck to amending the criminal justice system and other topics in his wheelhouse to address poverty in the U.S., such as alternatives to public education and economic-freedom zones.

The Bowling Green Republican said criminal justice reform is a subject that’s garnered bipartisan support in Congress.

Although the two don’t see eye-to-eye on much, Paul said he and President Barack Obama agree that something must be done to address the overwhelming number of nonviolent drug offenders who find themselves locked away for years or decades because of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines. At one point he focused on the disparity in mandatory sentences for crack cocaine, a form of the drug typically associated with low-income minority communities, and powder cocaine.

Sometimes the mere threat of lengthy prison stints is enough for the accused to accept plea deals for lesser sentences, he said.

“So what happens? People plead guilty and they get three or four years in prison, but then they’re a felon and often for things where they might’ve had a chance to fight it,” Paul said as he sat with White after touring the Jefferson Street facility. “Sometimes there’s a chance they maybe didn’t even do the crime, but nobody wants to go to jail for 15 years and I think 15 years for a nonviolent drug possession or drug sale is crazy.”

White, who said he invited Paul to America’s Finest Filters after watching his appearance on a recent episode of HBO’s “Vice” that focused on criminal justice reform, said those who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction sometimes need help finding opportunity, a key focus of his efforts in Louisville. About half of his 19 employees have felony convictions on their records, he said.

When beggars ask him for money on the street, White said he’ll include his business card along with cash and urge them to contact him for help.

Sometimes that’s enough, he said.

“We have the resources that already exist throughout Louisville,” White said in discussing Kentucky Recovery Resource Center. “People are just not aware of them. They don’t know where to find them, and if we can give them a leg up – they can go in there, get on the computer free, they can get a meeting while they’re there, they can get assessed while they’re there, and they can also find from home to find their living, their physical, their mental, and we even want to work on health.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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