Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws

Tuesday, March 10 has been designated as Rockefeller Drug Laws Advocacy Day 2009. For those of you non-native New York state residents or for those of you living under a rock, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were a set of laws established under Governor  Nelson Rockefeller in 1973. These laws gave New York the harshest drug laws code in the nation. Despite the reforms made in 2004 and 2005, the Rockefeller Drug Laws are still absolutely ridiculous laws that are often enforced under extreme racial bias while putting away the least violent of criminals for carrying extremely small quantities of narcotics. The Laws cost the state huge sums of money and divert police attention from real crimes, i.e. crimes that actually negatively effect others. The state's money would be much better spent in apprehending murderers and rapists than sending small-time drug offenders to the clink for life.

There are lots of interesting occurrences, all thanks to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. For example, though all studies show the vast majority of people selling and using drugs in the U.S. to be white, somehow 90% of all drug offenders being held in New York prisons are African-American or Latino. Another fun fact is that, in the prisons that cost $1.5 billion to construct and $500 million to run annually, 40% of the drug offenders being held are in jail for non-violent drug possession charges. So we're spending literally billions of dollars as a state to keep first-time "criminals," found guilty of having small quantities of drugs for personal use with no intent of selling, off the streets. God knows doing a line of coke is equal in prison sentence to violent assault and battery. Sending these same people to mandatory drug rehab, or making them do community service and attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings would be infinitely more responsible and more economically viable. Oh, also, there's no difference if you are a first-time offender or a multiple-time convicted offender with a record as long as the the bill for locking up these so-called criminals – your sentence is going to be exactly the same. Judges have no say; the Rockefeller Drug Laws effectively abolish any semblance of a case-by-case trial.

Our fine Governor Patterson has said, "...I think the Rockefeller Drug Laws have unfairly put people behind bars and destroyed their lives over, sometimes, one evening's mistake in which no one else got hurt." Keeping that in mind, there is a protest for a reform, perhaps even a repeal, of these bogus laws. Buses are leaving from all over the New York City area to go protest in Albany on March 10; if you aren't able to make it up, sign a petition against the Laws on http://www.DroptheRock.org, an initiative of the Correctional Association of New York. They have some great facts and alternative proposals listed on the site. Let's stop wasting our state's money and our law enforcers' time, not to mention stop wasting lives with these insane laws.

1 comment:

second-tier said...

If only Obama had lived in New York during his cocaine days...