Rockefeller Drug Laws

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Rockefeller Repeal Leader Wins NY Democratic AG Nomination

New York state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, author of last year's Rockefeller drug law reform legislation, won the Democratic Party nomination for state attorney general in last week's primary election. Scheiderman won 34% of the vote in a five-person race, besting Nassau County prosecutor Kathleen Rice, who came in second with 32%.

Eric Schneiderman
He will face Republican nominee Staten Island prosecutor Dan Donovan in the November 2 general election. In his victory speech, Scheiderman vowed to follow "the same aggressive, progressive approach" as current Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is favored to win the governor's race.

While all five Democratic attorney general candidates vowed to take a hard line on public corruption, help prevent another Wall Street crisis, and protect New Yorkers from terrorism, Schneiderman also played up his drug reform credentials.

On his issues page, Schneiderman touts his authorship of Rockefeller reform legislation, adding that the laws "were not only unfair and unsustainable, but an economic and moral threat to every New Yorker," and advertisements running during the campaign cited it as well. The New York Times also cited Schneiderman's championing of Rockefeller reform among its key reasons for endorsing him in the primary.

Scheiderman goes into greater detail in his Agenda for the Office of New York Attorney General. In addition to touting his role in Rockefeller law reform and in cosponsoring the law that forbids law enforcement agencies from keeping files on innocent people who have been stopped and frisked, Schneiderman vows to monitor and report on stop and frisk searches and to examine the criminal justice system for system-wide biases. He also promises to ease rehabilitation and reentry for ex-convicts and to promote a color-blind criminal justice system.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

NY
United States

Anti-Prohibitionist Candidates Challenge New York Status Quo (FEATURE)

An unlikely pair of anti-prohibitionist insurgents are running statewide campaigns in New York designed to challenge the political status quo. Randy Credico, a comedian turned activist turned senatorial candidate, is challenging incumbent Charles Schumer for the Democratic Party senatorial nomination, while hedge fund manager turned madam turned convict Kristin Davis is running for governor on the Anti-Prohibition party ticket.

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Randy Credico
Credico is familiar to the activist community as a relentless organizer against the Rockefeller drug laws from his post at the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, while Davis's notoriety comes from her prosecution and four-month imprisonment as a "Manhattan Madam" who procured prostitutes for deposed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Both are proving adept at milking the media for all it's worth in a bid to bring their anti-prohibitionist messages to the public eye.

By all accounts, neither has a chance of winning outright. In the latest Siena Poll of New York politics, Credico was pulling 11% against Schumer, up from 9% last fall, but still hardly a close race. Davis has not figured in any polls, but is running as a third party candidate in a year when Democrat Andrew Cuomo appears to be a shoo-in in November.

Still, both are committed to doing all they can to bolster their campaigns and get the spotlight focused on their issues. Last week, the Credico campaign handed in signatures in a bid to qualify for the Democratic primary, while the Davis campaign is in the midst of a signature drive of its own.

"I'm exhausted, I just spent 38 days on the petitioning drive," said Credico on the way back from Albany after handing in signatures. "I'm sick. I have some bronchial problem. If Paterson signs the medical marijuana bill, I might be able to get some relief. We have enough signatures to get on the ballot. Now we have to wait to see if Schumer challenges us," Credico said.

That may be unnecessary, given that the state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs told the New York Daily News Sunday that Credico and his allies had not turned in enough signatures to make the party ballot. But whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico will be in the race. He is also on the ticket for both the Libertarian Party and Davis's Anti-Prohibitionist Party.

"Randy submitted 7,000 signatures himself, and one running mate submitted 6,500, and the third guy was supposed to submit 9,000, but only handed in 500," said Roger Stone, a Republican political operative who is friends with Credico and is advising Davis. "The next morning, the Democratic state committee was peddling the story that Randy had fallen short. I think the third guy was working with Chuck Schumer in a Nixon-style dirty tricks operation. Why does Chuck Schumer fear competition? Why deny people a vote?"

Stone might know a thing or two about political tricksters. He has a long history of political shenanigans, most notably a role in the infamous "Brooks Brothers riots" in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election, where mobs of angry Republicans rushed election offices as officials scrutinized chads. He denies any involvement in that.

"I'm a libertarian Republican, not a religious right or Moral Majority Republican," Stone said. "I'm pro-freedom, I favor gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana, casino gambling, and prostitution. The only way to get the pimps and drugs out of it is to regulate it. It's a $10 billion industry -- let's legalize it and run out the mob, the pimps, the guys who exploit women, let's empower women."

He is also critical of New York's drug laws. "The Rockefeller laws were racist," Stone said bluntly. "If you were a rich white kid, you could get a break. I think there's a difference between cocaine and marijuana, and I'm not for the legalization of heroin, but until someone can convince me marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, I say legalize it. It's a harmless herb that grows from the earth, and the idea it's a gateway drug is horseshit. New York has millions of marijuana users and they didn't all turn into heroin addicts."

Whatever Stone's motives, he is pushing both anti-prohibitionist campaigns and played a key role in getting Davis into the governor's race. "I met Roger Stone on a Sirius radio show, and afterward, I approached him about lobbying for the legalization of prostitution," said Davis, whose blonde bombshell looks belie a keen intellect. "That was right after a woman who had worked for me was killed by the Craig's List killer in Boston. I feel very strongly she would still be alive if prostitution were legal. If one of his earlier victims had felt comfortable calling the police, he might have been caught before he killed," she said.

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Kristin Davis
"My platform is pro-freedom," said Davis, adding that some of her issues are getting more play than others. "We've sort of moved into being most vocal on marijuana and gay marriage," she said. "These are the two issues that resonate most with people. New York is broke, deeply in debt, so we're looking at marijuana not so much as a social issue, but as an economic one."

Davis acknowledged that actually winning the governorship was unlikely, to say the least, but said her campaign was more about getting the issues addressed and getting enough votes to get the Anti-Prohibitionist Party official status in New York. "People say you can't expect to win, but that depends on your definition of winning," she said. "Andrew Cuomo has approval ratings over 60% and $23 million in campaign funds, but voting for me sends a clear message to the career politicians that these issues need to be heard. If we can get 50,000 votes for the party, then we're officially recognized and can lobby for our issues. Every single vote matters. Every vote for me shows the career politicians that New Yorkers care about these issues, that they want legal marijuana."

The anti-prohibitionist tag team has been doing some joint appearances, Davis said. "Randy is on my Anti-Prohibitionist Party petition as the Senate nominee. We just did an event over the weekend. It was a signature drive kickoff slash birthday party for me," she said. "There were maybe 300 people there."

Davis's notoriety has both helped and hindered her campaign, the former madam said. "It's a double-edged sword. Compared to sex, people by and large are not so interested in politics," she explained. "Sex gets people interested, and I'm an interesting character, but on the other hand, the mainstream media has been skeptical. The Post and New York One have not covered the campaign at all. I hope that once we're on the ballot, and they see this isn't a hoax, they'll start taking us a little more seriously."

"She's been able to use the celebrity that came out of her brush with Eliot Spitzer to her advantage to continue to point out the inequities of the criminal justice system," Stone said. "She went to prison, and he went back to his town house."

If politics makes strange bedfellows, anti-drug war politics makes even stranger ones. Stone is a libertarian Republican, Davis describes herself as a libertarian, but Credico comes out of a left-leaning social justice perspective. They don't agree on everything. For instance, Credico has come out in favor of allowing a mosque to be built near the former World Trade Center site, while Davis opposes it. Similarly, Credico touts an anti-war, anti-interventionist foreign policy, while Davis doesn't touch those issues.

"In the end," said Stone, "Credico and Davis become running mates and are on the same side. The drug war is one of the issues that motivates them both."

Whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico isn't going away. "We're going to start a war of attrition against Schumer," the activist/comedian turned candidate vowed. "We'll be making inroads in the black, latino, lesbian and gay communities, we'll be making inroads with people upstate concerned about their mortgages and credit cards. "I know Schumer is not happy I'm in the race," said Credico. "I'm the last person he wants challenging him. I have a show biz background, I have charisma."

But he also has street cred dating back to his days agitating against the Rockefeller drug laws. "I worked with the families of prisoners, I worked with the African-American community. That's what helped get me over the top. Women whose kids were incarcerated came out and canvassed for me. Schumer has nothing to offer them," Credico said.

Credico compares and contrasts his career with Schumer's and finds the incumbent fares badly. "I ran a civil rights organization, and he conducted himself as someone opposed to civil rights, as manifested by his support of the Patriot Act, the drug war, ID cards, the wall on the border, and other repressive measures. He's anti-civil rights, not for constitutional or civil rights for most Americans."

The Schumer campaign did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

"I'm for civil rights, human rights, a clean environment, and pulling out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Colombia," Credico elaborated. "Schumer was going to waltz right in there without having to talk about this, and New Yorkers deserve better. Why is he an avid supporter of the drug war? Why isn't he as progressive as [Republican senators] Sessions and Hatch on the crack/powder sentencing disparity?" the long-time activist asked.

"I'm for legalization of marijuana," Credico continued. "We should be able to grow marijuana here, without taxing it. Let's not give the government any more layers of power. Prohibition has to be abolished. We have to talk about this. The drug war is a Trojan horse to incarcerate people of color for social control."

The Republicans and Democrats in New York have shown little taste for challenging drug war orthodoxy, but insurgent candidates Credico and Davis are determined to hold their feet to the fire when it comes to justifying prohibitionist policies. Let the games begin!

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Supporting Harsh Drug Laws is Political Suicide in NY

Now that New York's famous Rockefeller drug laws have been scaled back, the issue is being used as a political weapon against those who failed to support reform:

For many Democrats in Albany, it was a landmark achievement: the long-sought overhaul of New York’s strict Rockefeller-era drug laws, repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders that critics said disproportionately and unfairly fell on blacks and Latinos.

But that legislative victory last year has emerged as a litmus test in the increasingly bitter five-way Democratic primary battle for attorney general.

"The reforms resonate powerfully in the African-American community," said David S. Birdsell, dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. "It is also a signature piece of progressive legislation for an increasingly large part of the Democratic primary base. It's a litmus test for progressive voters and an appeal to a group that was disproportionately harmed by the old laws." [NYT]

You couldn’t ask for a better example of how quickly drug war politics are evolving. For decades, our political culture has clung to the conventional wisdom that endorsing drug law reform was instant career suicide. Now we're beginning to see candidates getting burned for failing to endorse reform.

That doesn't mean you can now get elected president on a meth legalization platform, but it should come as a harsh warning to any elected official who thinks they can still sell voters on stupid anti-drug stereotypes from the Reagan years. Certain reform issues now enjoy majority public support and others are surging in that direction.

If you're not ready to embrace and champion reform, that's one thing, but it should at least be clear that shrouding yourself proudly in the drug war battle-flag is no longer a smart campaign strategy.

Drop The Rock Empowerment Day 2010

Teams of community members, young people, formerly incarcerated people, and families will come together in neighborhoods across the city and state that are heavily impacted by incarceration to educate their communities about Drop the Rock’s campaign to downsize New York’s prison system. Empowerment Day teams will register voters and gather signatures on Drop the Rock’s new petition calling for prison closures, reforms of policies like work release, parole, and merit time, full repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and reinvestment in communities. Volunteers will petition in supermarkets, public housing lobbies, and on street corners in neighborhoods like Washington Heights, the South Bronx, Harlem, Crown Heights, Jamaica, Co-Op City, Downtown Brooklyn, Jackson Heights, Park Slope, and the Lower East Side, as well as in Hudson and Albany. Empowerment Day will be the first event following Drop the Rock’s successful trip to Albany where more than 400 advocates met with over 140 state leaders to call for prison downsizing. Now we are heading back to our own neighborhoods to build grassroots power in our communities. Will we be in your neighborhood? Register now by emailing us with your neighborhood of choice and contact information to help us bring Empowerment Day to your community. For more information, contact Caitlin Dunklee, Drop the Rock Coordinator, at 212- 254-5700 x.339, or [email protected], or see http://www.droptherock.org/.
Date: 
Sat, 05/15/2010 - 11:00am - 3:00pm
Location: 
NY
United States

Drop the Rock Coalition Meeting

Please join us for our next Drop the Rock Coalition meeting where we will hold a training for Advocacy Day 2010. Please help us spread the word about Advocacy Day, which will be held in Albany on Tuesday, March 16. For more information, contact: Caitlin Dunklee, Associate Director, Public Policy Project at tel: 212-254-5700 x 339 or [email protected]. www.droptherock.org www.correctionalassociation.org
Date: 
Thu, 02/18/2010 - 6:00pm
Location: 
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (at 125th Street), Suite 200
New York, NY 10027
United States

At the Statehouse: Sentencing, Drug Testing, Good Samaritan, Hemp, and SWAT Bills

As 2009 winds up, we present the last installment in our series of articles on drug reform in state legislatures. This week, we look at Good Samaritan bills, sentencing bills, drug testing bills, and a hemp bill and a SWAT bill.

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Rhode Island Senate chamber
Although we have tried to be comprehensive, we might have missed something. If we have, please write to us here.

Good Samaritan Bills

Connecticut: A bill that would protect overdose victims and the people seeking help for them from prosecution, HB 5445, was introduced in January and referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where it got a hearing in March. It has not moved since.

Hawaii: A bill providing limited immunity from prosecution for overdose victims and those seeking to help them, HB 532, was introduced in January, passed the Health Committee on an 8-0 vote in February, and was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. It has now been held over for the 2010 session.

Maryland: A bill that would protect overdose victims and the people seeking help for them from prosecution, HB 1273, passed the House on a 135-0 vote in March, passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote in April, and was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley in May.

Nebraska: A bill protecting drug overdose victims and those seeking to assist them from prosecution, LB 383, was introduced in January and got a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in March, but has not moved since.

New York: A bill that would provide protection to drug overdose victims and those seeking to help them, A 8147, was introduced in May and referred to the Assembly Rules Committee in June, where it has sat ever since. A companion measure, S 5191, was introduced in April and has sat before the Senate Codes Committee ever since.

Rhode Island: A bill that would provide limited immunity from prosecution for drug overdose victims and those trying to help them, S 194, was introduced in February and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has been stalled ever since.

Washington: A bill that would protect overdose victims and those trying to help them from prosecution, HB 1796, was introduced in January and approved by the Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in February. It was then referred to the House Rules Committee, where it died for lack of action.

Drug Testing

Kansas: A bill that would have required people who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing, HB 2275, passed the House on a 99-26 vote in March. It was referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee at that time, but has not moved since.

Louisiana: A bill that would have required welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, HB 137, died in June on an 11-5 vote in the House Appropriations Committee.

Missouri: A bill that would have made it a crime to falsify a drug test or to sell or transport drug test adulterants, HB 446, was introduced in May and promptly went nowhere. It is currently "not on the calendar." A bill that would require drug testing of welfare recipients upon "reasonable suspicion," SB 73, won a hearing before the Senate Progress and Development Committee in February, but has been dormant ever since.

West Virginia: A bill that would have mandated random drug tests for people who receive food stamps or unemployment benefits, HB 3007, was blocked in committee. A last ditch effort to revive it via a House floor vote was defeated 70-30 on a straight party line vote. Republicans voted for it.

Sentencing

Louisiana: A bill, HB 630, which would grant parole eligibility to people sentenced to life without parole for heroin offenses, passed the House and Senate in the spring and became law without the governor's signature in July. It became effective August 15.

Massachusetts: The state Senate last month approved SB 2210, which grants parole eligibility to nonviolent drug offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences. But the House recessed without taking action on the measure.

New Jersey: A bill that would give judges discretion to waive mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, SB 1866, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 23 and passed Senate yesterday. Its companion measure, A2762, passed the Assembly last year, and Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill.

New York: The legislature and Gov. David Paterson (D) came to an agreement in March on a second round of reforms to the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. The reforms, which went into effect in October, included returning judicial discretion in low-level drug cases, expanding treatment and reentry services, expanding drug courts, and allowing some 1,500 people imprisoned for low-level drug offenses to apply for resentencing.

Hemp

Oregon: Oregon became the 17th state to pass legislation favorable to hemp farming and the ninth state to remove legal barriers to farming the potentially lucrative crop as Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) in August signed into law SB 676, an industrial hemp act sponsored by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D). The bill removes all state legal obstacles to growing hemp for food, fiber, and other industrial purposes. It passed the House 46-11 and the Senate 27-2. Industrial hemp production remains prohibited under federal law.

SWAT

Maryland: Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill that will require law enforcement SWAT teams to regularly report on their activities. The bill was largely a response to a misbegotten drug raid last July in Prince Georges County in which Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his family were doubly victimized -- first by drug traffickers who used their address for a marijuana delivery, then by Prince Georges County police, who killed the family's two pet dogs and mistreated Calvo and his mother-in-law for several hours. The bill, the SWAT Team Activation and Reporting Act (HB 1267), requires all law enforcement agencies that operate SWAT teams to submit monthly reports on their activities, including when and where they are used, and whether the operations result in arrests, seizures or injuries.

Press Release: Tues. -- NY Assembly Hearing on Rockefeller Drug Reform Implementation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2009 CONTACT: Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Anthony Papa at (646) 420-7290 NY State Assembly Hearing on Tuesday to Map Out Next Steps in Implementation of Historic Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Courts, Treatment Providers and Community-Based Programs to Brief Lawmakers on Expanded Access to Drug Treatment and Alternatives to Incarceration for Most Drug Offenses The New York State Assembly on Tuesday will hold a key hearing to press forward with implementation of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform of 2009, soliciting feedback from courts, treatment providers and community-based programs on their readiness and resource needs to carry out the groundbreaking new law. The reform, which took effect on Oct. 7, eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses, restored discretion to judges to sentence individuals to probation, drug treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, and allows approximately 1,000 people convicted under the old Rockefeller Drug Laws to apply for re-sentencing. “As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed,” said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. “But Rockefeller reform will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell.” At Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers will explore a wide range of issues related to the Rockefeller reform, including: What steps has the court system taken to prepare for and implement the new judicial diversion program, and to ensure that persons who are resentenced have access to community-based reentry programs? Are there sufficient community-based treatment programs available to serve individuals sentenced to treatment or probation, or those released from prison? What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of substance abuse in obtaining public benefits, medical assistance, employment and affordable and stable housing? These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health framework," said Shreya Mandal, Mitigation Specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning. Reform also calls for revamping outdated modes of drug treatment, both in and out of prison, and for making progressive changes in how we respond to addiction.” Under more limited reforms to the Rockefeller laws signed by Gov. George Pataki in 2004 and 2005 – which authorized resentencing and eliminated life sentences for individuals convicted of certain drug felonies – 584 individuals were released from prison, and just 9 percent of these people returned to jail, far lower than the state’s 39 percent overall recidivism rate. These results counter claims made by district attorneys and law enforcement officials that sentencing reform leads to disaster. “Opponents of reform try to scare the public with claims that the ‘sky is falling’ every time individuals with substance abuse problems are sent to treatment instead of prison,” said Glenn Martin, Vice President of Development and Public Affairs for The Fortune Society. “But by working collaboratively among treatment providers and Alternatives to Incarceration programs, stakeholders can ensure the success of New York’s movement toward a public health and safety approach to drug use.” Enacted in 1973, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were intended to target drug kingpins, but instead the laws led to the incarceration of thousands of individuals, mostly people of color, for low-level, nonviolent offenses, many with no prior criminal records. Approximately 12,000 people remain locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, at a cost of roughly $45,000 per year to incarcerate a single person, compared to an average cost of $15,000 per year for drug treatment, which is proven to be 15 times more effective at reducing crime and recidivism. The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. For more information, please visit: www.drugpolicy.org. What: NY State Assembly Hearing on Rockefeller Drug Law Reform When: 10:30 A.M. Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 Where: Assembly Hearing Room 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor New York, NY
Location: 
NY
United States

Sentencing: New York's Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms Now in Effect

As many as 1,500 low-level, nonviolent drug offenders will be able to apply for release or shorter sentences under reforms to New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws that went into effect Wednesday. The partial reforms also mean increased judicial discretion in sentencing, allowing judges to send some offenders to treatment instead of prison.

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June 2003 ''Countdown to Fairness'' rally, NYC (15yearstolife.com)
The reforms were signed into law in April by Gov. David Paterson (D) after he and the state legislature came to agreement on the issue. They build on earlier partial reforms passed in 2004 that addressed the lengthy sentences assigned to more serious drug offenders.

"Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, we did not treat the people who were addicted. We locked them up," Paterson said Wednesday at the Brooklyn Court House. "Families were broken, money was wasted, and we continued to wrestle with a statewide drug problem. The reforms that take effect today address those problems. By returning judicial discretion to the courtroom, we are reuniting families and fighting criminal activity and addiction in our communities," he said.

Because the reforms eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges to order eligible defendants to treatment or diversion over prosecutorial objections, the State District Attorneys Association opposed the reforms. But they were championed by a formidable Drop the Rock coalition of drug policy, criminal justice, social justice, and other groups calling for repeal of the Rockefeller laws, as well as by the now Democrat-controlled legislature and statehouse.

"As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed," said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. "But, Rockefeller will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell."

"New Yorkers fought for decades to reform the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, and we finally succeeded this year," said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now we need to make Rockefeller reform work. Today marks another step towards our state moving in new direction on drug policy, one based on public health and safety. Thankfully, legal and human service agencies are stepping up to implement reform."

"Rockefeller Drug Law reform symbolizes a critical time in our history, where we acknowledge the individual stories and personal struggles of those who have been most affected by such a harsh and racist sentencing scheme," said Shreya Mandal, mitigation specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health model. Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning." The Legal Aid Society is already working on 270 cases that should qualify for early release, according to the Associated Press.

But there is still work to be done getting drug offenders out of prison. While as many as 1,500 could get out early, they will leave behind another 12,000 or so, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Corrections. That's more than 20% of all New York state prisoners.

New York Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms Go Into Effect Today

Okay, everybody stop, take a breath. Perhaps smile. Reforms to New York state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws have gone into effect today. State authorities have identified about 1,100 inmates who are eligible to apply for resentencing now -- I've also seen the figure 1,500 cited. The Legal Aid Society is already working with 270 of them. It isn't nearly enough. Our article published just before the legislation passed last April outlines some of its deficiencies. If all of those 1,100 gain earlier release than they would have gotten, that will leave another 13,000, and resentencing doesn't mean they'll all get out right away. Of course, the limited scope of the reforms passed by the legislature didn't stop prosecutors from trying to block their implementation. But they failed. This is the second time the legislature has modified the Rockefeller laws -- the first time was in 2004 -- and yet most of the work still lies ahead of us. But 1,100 people, potentially, will have their lives transformed, and another chink has been made in the drug war wall of injustice. To once again make use of a Churchill quote that drug reformers have used before: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." In the meanwhile, watch this video:

Press Release: Gov. Paterson to Speak Wed: Rock Drug Law Reform Becomes Active; 1,500 Eligible for Resentencing and Release!

For Immediate Release: October 7, 2009 Contact: Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Gabriel Sayegh at (646)335-2264 1,500 Incarcerated People Eligible for Resentencing and Release, Judges Now Have Discretion Governor Paterson to Mark Milestone at Brooklyn Courthouse on Wednesday at 10 a.m. An Army of Legal Advocates and Human Service Agencies Stand Ready to Provide Reentry, Drug Treatment and other Services New York- On Wednesday, October 7, key elements of the Rockefeller Drug Law reform go into effect: Decision making authority is returned to judges, who can now divert people suffering from drug dependency into treatment and other service programs, instead of prison. And nearly 1,500 people currently incarcerated for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses under the Rockefeller Drug Laws can petition the court for resentencing and, if approved by a judge, will be released. After Governor David Paterson signed the reforms into law earlier this year, advocates and service providers have worked diligently to prepare for implementation. Legal aid and public defender agencies are providing legal counsel. Hundreds of social and human agencies around the state have volunteered to provide a broad range of services to those individuals who will be released from prison as a result of drug law reform. In New York City alone, over 100 human service agencies have agreed to work with legal aid and public defender agencies to provide services like housing, job training and drug treatment to those individuals returning from prison as a result of drug law reform. "As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed, said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. "But, Rockefeller will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell." "New Yorkers fought for decades to reform the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, and we finally succeeded this year," said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now we need to make Rockefeller reform work. Today marks another step towards our state moving in new direction on drug policy, one based on public health and safety. Thankfully, legal and human service agencies are stepping up to implement reform." "Rockefeller Drug Law reform symbolizes a critical time in our history, where we acknowledge the individual stories and personal struggles of those who have been most affected by such a harsh and racist sentencing scheme," said Shreya Mandal, Mitigation Specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health model. Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning." Governor Paterson will be marking the milestone at an event at 10 a.m. at the Brooklyn Court House, 320 Jay St., Room 283. In addition to the Governor, two drug court graduates will speak at the event. ###
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NY
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School