Rockefeller Drug Laws

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Discussion and Screening of Lockdown, USA

Join the Real Reform New York Coalition for an evening of discussion and a screening of the new Rockefeller drug law documentary "Lockdown, USA." Speakers include Wanda Best (wife of Darryl Best, whose story is featured in the film), Ricky and Cheri O'Donoghue (parents of Ashley O'Donoghue) and a special stand-up comedy performance by Randy Credico.

For more information contact [email protected] or the Cafe at (212) 677-5918.

This event is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted.

Date: 
Thu, 06/14/2007 - 6:30pm
Location: 
9 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

DPA Press Release: Lawmakers, judges, and advocates rebuke Gov. O’Malley’s veto of sentencing reform bill

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2007 Contact: Naomi Long (202) 669-6071 or Laura Jones: (202) 425-4659 Lawmakers, judges, and advocates rebuke Gov. O’Malley’s veto of sentencing reform bill; O’Malley “clinging to the failed policies of the past” in a “lapse of leadership” Coalition vows to continue educating O’Malley, promoting treatment instead of prisons Annapolis—A coalition of advocates, law enforcement officials, drug treatment providers and policy experts today denounced Governor O’Malley’s veto of a bill that would have provided the possibility of parole for non-violent drug offenders. The sentencing reform bill, HB 992, was one of the only bills vetoed by O’Malley, despite its support from the legislature, the coalition, and the editorial pages of the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. “The veto is a disappointing mistake,” said Justice Policy Institute executive director Jason Ziedenberg. “Instead of taking a baby step in the right direction towards treatment instead of prison, O’Malley is stubbornly clinging to the failed tough on crime policies of the past. The governor failed to show leadership and vision in this decision.” States across the country have taken steps to reform ineffective mandatory sentencing laws that remove discretion to consider the individual facts of the case. Newly-elected Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) recently called for wide ranging mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Newly-elected New York Governor Elliot Spitzer added language in his budget for a prison closure commission, and is considering a bill to further reform the state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Under the comparatively modest Maryland reform, individuals convicted of a 10-year sentence for a nonviolent drug reform would have been eligible for, but not guaranteed, parole. Individuals convicted of violent crimes would serve the full 10-year sentences. “Governor O’Malley has put Maryland out of step with other states that are moving in the direction of smarter, more effective sentencing policies,” said Naomi Long, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance District of Columbia Metropolitan Area project. “This veto was a lapse of leadership, and hurts Maryland’s efforts to implement the kinds of real reforms that would actually make a difference.” The state of Maryland spends millions of dollars each year incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, the vast majority of whom would be better served by drug treatment options. A recent report by the Justice Policy Institute found that Maryland's sentencing laws disproportionately affect communities of color and may be the least effective, most expensive way to promote public safety. “The fight for more effective and fair sentencing policies isn’t over,” said Delegate Curtis Anderson (D-Baltimore), a sponsor of the legislation. “Maryland voters want more fair and effective sentencing policies. We will keep working with the Governor to implement those reforms.” The Partnership for Treatment, Not Incarceration supported HB 992, and is a consortium of organizations and individuals including members of faith communities, public health and drug treatment professionals, public defenders, judges, police and other law enforcement. For more information about bill, or to interview spokespeople who can respond, contact Naomi Long (202)669-6071. To learn more about sentencing reform work in Maryland, visit: www.justicepolicy.org and www.drugpolicy.org . ###
Location: 
Annapolis, MD
United States

New York Rockefeller Reports

DPA likes our Rockefeller report the best out of all of them...
Location: 
New York, NY
United States

Feature: Turning Up the Heat on New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws (and the Politicians Who Fail to Fix Them)

On Tuesday, New York marked an ugly anniversary -- 34 years since the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws were enacted. Now, three years after the legislature enacted the first, timid reforms of those harsh drug laws and one month after the State Assembly voted to broaden them, drug reform activists are seeking to heighten the pressure on Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), Lt. Gov. David Paterson (D), Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), and the Republican-led state Senate to act.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fairness4.jpg
June 2003 ''Countdown to Fairness'' rally, NYC (courtesy 15yearstolife.com)
Prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimum Rockefeller drug laws now number more than 13,000, and an astonishing 91% of them are black or brown. The reforms enacted in 2004 have resulted in the release of only 300, leaving thousands of prisoners serving mid-level mandatory minimum sentences still in purgatory.

Spitzer, Paterson, and Cuomo campaigned on Rockefeller law reform, but since they took office the silence has been deafening. In 2003, the hip-hop community, led by empresario Russell Simmons, put tens of thousands people on the street to rally for reform. Now, once again, the hip-hop community is calling out the politicians.

Working with Real Reform New York, a coalition coordinated by the Drug Policy Alliance, hip-hop superstar Jim Jones Tuesday released a new rap single, "Lockdown, USA," a powerful call to reform the Rockefeller laws which has so far run on dozens of radio stations around the country.

A Harlem native, Jones has seen the impact of the Rockefeller drug laws firsthand. Conversely, the politicians in Albany have seen the impact of a mobilized hip-hop nation first hand, too, and reformers report that the prospect of a new call to arms from the hip-hop community has them nervous.

"We're kicking up the pressure now, trying to revive the Russell Simmons coalition approach to Albany, and I'm hearing that they're starting to sweat," said Anthony Papa, a former Rockefeller law prisoner turned author and painter who now works to undo those laws. "They're getting flashbacks of 100,000 people on the street [for the 2003 Russell Simmons Countdown to Fairness], and it's good if that makes them nervous," Papa told the Chronicle.

He isn't just speculating. After publishing an op-ed in the widely-read Huffington Post blog last weekend, titled "Spitzer, Cuomo and Paterson: Where Did You Go?," Papa received a personal call from Paterson's office. "Not too happy," Papa characterized their feelings about it in an e-mail to DRCNet yesterday. And word is that the chatter in Albany about it all is far more extensive than that.

"These guys campaigned on Rockefeller law reform, and now Spitzer has been in office for more than 100 days, and it is nowhere in sight," Papa complained. "Hip-hop is now calling you out, Spitzer!"

It's time for change, said one prisoner's mother. "Small changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws were clearly not enough. My son Ashley is a prime example of this, because he is serving a 7- to 21-year sentence for a first-time, nonviolent offense," said Cheri O'Donoghue, an advocate for Real Reform New York. "These inhumane, racist laws have been around for nearly 34 years. Enough is enough."

New York's Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 (DLRA) lowered some drug sentences but it fell far short of allowing most people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms, and it did nothing to increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by these modest reforms, it is clear that the recent reforms have had a negligible impact on the majority of people behind bars. Most people behind bars on Rockefeller charges are charged with nonviolent lower-level or class-B felonies.

"Given the extraordinary racism associated with these laws, it's unbelievable they've been around for 34 years," said Gabriel Sayegh, project director at Drug Policy Alliance. "We hope that this powerful song will inspire the thousands who attended the 2003 Lockdown, USA rally -- and all outraged New Yorkers -- to pick up the phone and step into the streets to put heat on Governor Spitzer and State Senator Joe Bruno -- to make them keep their word and reform these inhumane laws."

But even if the Democratic administration starts moving on real reform, a huge political obstacle remains in the Republican-dominated Senate, with its strongholds in the prison country of upstate New York. Seven upstate Senate districts held by Republicans depend on prisoner numbers to reach their required population size and would have to be redrawn if large numbers of prisoners were released or the US Census Bureau counted them as residents of their home towns.

Prisons are also a growth industry in Republican-dominated upstate, which has seen dozens of new prisons in the past two decades. It is no surprise that two of the most vocal reform opponents, Sens. Dale Volker (R) of suburban Buffalo and Michael Nozzolio (R) of Finger Lakes have 17% of the state's prison population in their districts.

Spitzer ran on his record as a crusader against waste and corruption. Now, he has the opportunity to undo the Rockefeller drug laws. But will he, or will he bow to political pressure from powerful special interests who benefit directly from the mass incarceration of their nonviolent fellow citizens? The reform community is now turning up the heat to help him do the right thing.

Governor Spitzer: Hip Hop Is Calling You Out!

Location: 
NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
Political Affairs (NY)
URL: 
http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/5249/1/258/

Hip Hop Star Releases Anti-Rockefeller Drug Law Video for Forthcoming Documentary

Gabriel Sayegh blogs about it for the Huffington Post...
Location: 
NY
United States

Today is the 34th anniversary of the signing of New York's infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws

[Courtesy of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, Inc. and Tony Papa] Today, May 8, marks the 34 year anniversary of the signing of New York's infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws. In December of 2004 the laws were mildly modified but continue unabated to wreak untold havoc on poor communities of color across the Empire State. Below is a link to a powerful and edifying video/song written and performed by Hip-Hop megastar Jim Jones calling on Governor Spitzer to reform the cruel and unusual, and racially applied Rockefeller Drug Laws (now the Elliot Spitzer drug laws). The video serves as trailer for the newly released documentary Lockdown USA. Moreover, we have included a compelling editorial that appeared this week in the Huffington Post. The editorial was written by artist/activist and Rockefeller Drug Law survivor Anthony Papa. In the editorial, Mr. Papa urges not only the Governor Spitzer but also Lt. Governor David Patterson in particular NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to use their offices to follow through on their past commitment to push for the REPEAL of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Mr. Cuomo is one of the four major figures featured in the Lockdown USA documentary. All three public officials have been silent on the issue since their respective inaugurations. Mr. Papa, formerly of Mothers of the NY Disappeared, is now a media specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). DPA has worked closely with the NY Mothers and the Kunstler Fund for the past 9 years in the popular movement to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws.(www.drugpolicy.org). Jim Jones Lockdown, USA Song http://www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/newyork/lockdownusa/ Huffington Post Spitzer, Cuomo and Paterson: Where Did You Go? by Anthony Papa May 8 marks the 34th anniversary of New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. Despite a few recent reforms, which in theory would fix the draconian nature of these laws, little has been done and the campaign for meaningful reform continues. In fact, out of the current 13,000 Rockefeller prisoners, fewer than 300 have been freed under the revisions to date. In recent elections, a number of officials who went on record in support of real Rockefeller reform were voted into office. Governor Elliot Spitzer, for one, along with Lt. Governor David Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo all have spoken out for reform in the past. But now they are surprisingly silent on the issue. In 2004, I wrote a memoir of my experiences serving a 15-to-life sentence under these harsh laws. Andrew Cuomo, before he became our state's attorney general, threw a book release party for me at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Attending the event were prominent individuals like Senator David Paterson, along with many other influential guests. Cuomo and Paterson spoke bravely about changing these draconian laws. Spitzer, the then-attorney general of New York, did not attend but wrote a letter saying that my story was a "very personal and tragic story, like those of so many other nonviolent offenders languishing in our prisons on relatively minor drug offenses," and that it "illustrates the impact that our Rockefeller Drug Laws have had on a generation of New Yorkers. I applaud Mr. Papa's courage in speaking out and sharing his ordeal with the world." It was a moving event that generated a vision of changing the Rockefeller Drug Laws in a positive way. I find it strange that the people who had supported change in the past have now become so silent on the issue. My question is why do politicians who use political platforms to generate votes suddenly forget their past when elected to higher office? Governor Elliot Spitzer, does appear interested in correcting the criminal justice sector, as evidenced by his success in removing exorbitant charges on collect calls made by prisoners to their families, and his recent attempt to downsize half-empty prisons. But his laudable efforts have not cued in on the Rockefeller reform. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has used this issue in the past to revive his political career has not uttered a word about it. And Lt. Governor David Paterson who represented a highly affected Harlem district as senator has steered away from the issue. Last week the New York State Assembly passed a bill for further reform of the Rockefeller Drug laws. Cheri O'Donoghue joined them at a press conference and talked about her son Ashley who is serving a 7 to 21 sentence for a first time non-violent drug offense. This mother grieved for the son she had lost to laws that had taken away her relationship with him. She asked why the Rockefeller Drug Laws had now not been a priority with so many politicians that had benefited from them in the past. No one could answer her question. It's time for Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo to join the NYS Assembly and step up to the plate. They should remember their past intentions, especially when it affects the people who voted them into office.
Location: 
NY
United States

Sentencing: New York Assembly Passes New Rockefeller Law Reforms

The continuing effort to undo New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws took another step forward Wednesday as the state Assembly passed a bill that would expand the availability of drug treatment and give judges greater discretion in sentencing. The push comes three years after the legislature enacted modest initial reforms, but since then only 177 of the state's 15,000 drug prisoners have won sentence reductions.

The new bill would:

  • Increase judges' discretion and allow some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison terms.
  • Set up drug courts in every county, to make efforts to get drug offenders into treatment programs.
  • Raise the weight thresholds for certain drug offenses so that the possible sentence times are reduced.
  • Create or expand "second chance" programs for low-level drug defendants, such as the Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment program, in which offenders' cases can be dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors upon successful completion of treatment.
  • Create enhanced penalties for violent drug dealers and people who sell drugs to children.

"The modest reform to the Rockefeller Drug Laws enacted in 2004 and the extension in 2005 to provide for the re-sentencing of some class A-II offenders was a beginning, but unfortunately, despite pledges made by then Gov. George Pataki and the Senate to make additional changes, no further action was taken. The Assembly's repeated passage of significant drug law reform legislation for years went unnoticed by the former executive and the other house," said Speaker Sheldon Silver as the vote neared.

"This bill provides reforms that are long overdue," he continued. "It would expand the availability of drug treatment programs, allow judges to order non-violent, lower-level offenders into mandatory treatment for addiction and substance abuse and assure that prisons are most often used for serious drug offenders, offenders with violent histories and those who cannot or will not succeed in drug abuse treatment. We are confident that with the help of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the Assembly's long-standing commitment to make the state's drug laws smarter, fairer and more effective will become a reality," added Silver.

"The opposition will say we are soft on crime," said Jeffrion Aubrey (D-Queens) who chairs the Assembly Committee on Correction and who authored the bill. "But we understand the revolving door of criminal justice and we want to shut that door."

Advocates say Rockefeller drug laws remain too harsh

Location: 
Albany, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Ithaca Journal (NY)
URL: 
http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070419/NEWS01/704190373/1002

Democratic Candidates Are Deafeningly Silent on the Drug War

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/50203/

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