2002-10-26 / Community

Reform Called For Draconian Drug Laws

Reform Called For Draconian Drug Laws

City Council Member Yvette D. Clark, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services has joined with Council Member Hiram Monserrate, chair of the Select Committee on Civil Rights, the Council Black and Hispanic Caucus, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Correctional Association of New York and several advocates to rally support for a Council resolution that calls upon the State Legislature to reform the Rockefeller drug laws.

Dubbed as, "Drop the Rock" week in the City Council, the press conference kicked off a two-day whirl of hearings intended to highlight the disproportionate number of New York City residents, particularly of Black and Latino descent, who have been negatively affected by the 1979 law. The sponsors and advocates of Resolution 241-A are urging Governor George Pataki and the State Legislature to weigh in on the debate of mandatory sentencing and restructure the current edict.

"The penalties under the current law apply without regard to the circumstances of the offense or the individual’s character or background, leaving judges no discretion to reduce charges," said Council Member Clarke. "These laws diminish the power of judges…they diminish the power of people."

Council Member Monserrate, who is also co-chair for the Council’s Black and Hispanic Caucus, challenged Governor Pataki, by stating: "This resolution is a call for action. Year after year, Governor Pataki has declared his support for reform, but nothing changes. While Albany delays, another generation of children from New York City’s communities of colors filling up this State’s prisons."

According to the Fiscal Year 2003 budget, $700 million per year is spent to warehouse over 21,000 prisoners due to the Rockefeller drug laws, with an additional $2.6 billion in capital money used to build new prisons. Also, since 1982, New York has opened 38 new prisons, all in upstate counties represented by Republican State Senators.

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