THE BLOG
04/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Time to Show the World

There was a lot of movement in Albany last week and yesterday about the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The ACLU of NY released a major report, strongly stating that the laws have been disastrous for New York State, as they have not improved public safety or stopped people from using drugs. The report even calls the laws, "New York's Jim Crow Laws," some pretty tough words. The ACLU recommends four things, of which I agree on all four:
  • Reduce sentences for those convicted of drug-related crimes.
  • Restore judicial discretion and end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
  • Develop and invest in a statewide alternative to incarceration model to provide supervised treatment, education and employment training for those who would be better served by diversion than by prison.
  • Provide retroactive sentencing relief for those already incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws

The word coming out of the governor's camp was that he was going to release a bill on Friday that would be a "compromise" between what the Assembly passed and what the Senate wants. However, it never came. I realized that it is a lot safer, politically, for the governor to not release a bill, and rather create the "compromise" with both sides of government in private. So, just like what we did in 2003, I urge all three parties to be straight with the people of New York. There have been rumors floating around about what is inside the Governor's bill, a few things of which I am not too happy about. The first thing I heard is that he will keep mandatory minimum sentences for second time offenders. I urge him to re-consider this position, and give full judicial discretion for all drug-related crimes, especially non-violent ones. Also, they are saying that there is not retroactivity in the Governor's bill, meaning that those who were convicted under these harsh sentences in the past, will not be re-sentenced. I think this is wrong, and to use the argument that that the state can't afford to do this is not being honest with the people of New York. To continue with the way we have been going will cost the taxpayers $600 million dollars to incarcerate drug-offenders in New York in 2009 alone. We will save hundreds of millions of dollars if we fix this. And we need to fix this now.

Governor Paterson, Senate Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver -- fix these laws and fix them now. The people of New York are behind you in repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, so make it happen. And you should remember that the nation is watching us. The nation is watching to see if we will do the right thing in New York. And if we do the right thing, the nation will follow in our footsteps, and for once, maybe just once, we can begin to end a "war" in this country that went terribly wrong.