Long-time readers know I have been singing the praises of Senator Rand Paul since he began making the case for consequential federal sentencing reforms more than half a decade ago. Now I am pleased to see that Senator Paul’s spouse, Kelley Ashby Paul, is adding her voice to the call for reform through this new op-ed headlined “Kelley Paul: We must focus on recovery, not incarceration.” Here are excerpts:
As a community, as a state and as a nation, we must speak out in favor of expanded rehabilitation opportunities for those struggling with addiction. Because of the Hope Center’s expansion, even more women … will have the tools to overcome addiction and begin a new path forward in life.
It is recovery, not incarceration, which allows people to become productive members of society — citizens with jobs and families who can contribute and make our communities better places to work, grow and live. It is recovery, not incarceration, which brings hope and peace into the lives of thousands of Americans and their families struggling with addiction.
The Hope Center expansion comes on the heels of the enactment of the first ever Dignity Bill in the nation, right here in Kentucky. Because of Sen. Julie Raque Adams’ sponsorship of the bill, and the tenacity of women leaders on both sides of the aisle, pregnant women accused of minor, non-violent crimes now have the option to enter into a recovery program. They can get the treatment they need, instead of languishing behind bars because they are unable to make bail.
Criminal-justice reform is something my husband, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, has been fighting for since he arrived in Washington. He is a lead co-sponsor of bipartisan bail reform legislation with Sen. Kamala Harris, and with the recent introduction of the First Step Act, a major bipartisan prison reform bill that includes expanded treatment opportunities, I am hopeful we can continue our efforts to fix a broken system. I am proud to assure the people of this commonwealth that my family will do everything we can to ensure that the First Step Act will get a vote.
Criminal-justice reform goes hand in hand with reducing homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction. We have learned that locking people up who are in need of treatment is not the answer.
The U.S. is the most heavily incarcerated country in the developed world, and many of those incarcerated have suffered a trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse, which led to addiction, and ultimately led them to our justice system. Instead of treating these individuals, we toss them behind bars, where their problems only get worse. This cycle of failure results in staggering financial costs to the taxpayer, but more importantly a devastating cost to families and children.
I suspect that most folks in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are in support of the kinds of criminal justice reforms here promoted by Kelley Paul, and the state’s Governor has been an outspoken reform advocate. But when it comes to getting votes on significant federal criminal justice bills, the most important person from Kentucky is Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell Jr. He decides whether any bill gets a full Senate vote and he has not allowed a floor vote on any significant criminal justice reform bill during his leadership. I hope that changes soon, and maybe Kelley Paul can have more influence on this front than seemingly her spouse has so far.