POLITICS
11/03/2013 11:59 am ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

Bernard Kerik Criticizes 'Insane' Mandatory Minimum Sentences

WASHINGTON -- Convicted felon and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is now a supporter of mandatory minimum reform after a three-year stint in federal prison, telling NBC's Matt Lauer he was "stunned" after meeting other prisoners who were doing major time for first-time non-violent drug offenses.

"I had no idea that for five grams of cocaine -- which is what that nickel weighs, five grams -- you could be sentenced to 10 years in prison," Kerik said in a clip of an interview that aired on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "I was with men sentenced to 10 years in prison for five grams of cocaine. That's insane."

Kerik, who had been nominated by former President George W. Bush to lead the Department of Homeland Security, spent time in prison on eight felony counts, including tax fraud and lying to the White House.

"If the American people and members of Congress saw what I saw, there would be anger, there would be outrage, and there would be change, because nobody would stand for it," Kerik said of his time behind bars.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said on "Meet the Press" that there was a "growing consensus" on the issue of prison reform, citing comments from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Attorney General Eric Holder has instituted several reforms as part of a "Smart on Crime" initiative, including a policy that allows some low-level drug defendants to avoid mandatory minimum sentences.

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