Pubdate: Mon, 29 May 2000
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The New York Times Company
Contact:  229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 556-3622
Authors: David Rothenberg, Carol Shapiro, and Walter Beck


To the Editor:
"Drug Laws That Destroy Lives" (editorial, May 24) is on target.

So many politicians and criminal justice experts privately admit that
the Rockefeller laws are self-defeating and costly and should be
repealed. Why the delay?

First, several upstate communities are prison towns.

Their economies would be in a state of upheaval if the prison
population decreased as a result of sensible drug laws.

Jobs are at stake and alternative employment must be part of the

Second, many products, from soap to steel, have lucrative contracts
with the Department of Correction. They view a diminishing prison
population as one that causes decreasing profits.

Your editorial's position must be accompanied by plans to incorporate
the real needs of those who profit from prisons.

New York, May 24, 2000

To the Editor:

It is indeed alarming that 22,300 largely nonviolent drug offenders
are in New York prisons (editorial, May 24).

Rockefeller-era laws have not only clogged this state's prisons with
low-level drug offenders, but also pull apart families and
neighborhoods, leaving children without parents and communities
economically and socially fragmented.

Legislative bodies must begin to rethink current drug sentencing laws.
The criminal justice system can engage families as resources in their
treatment of addiction. Once supported in working partnerships,
families have been shown to play a positive and powerful role in
treatment and long-term recovery.

Let us treat substance abuse by tapping into the inherent strengths of
families and communities, rather than punishing those struggling with

New York, May 24, 2000

The writer is executive director, La Bodega de la Familia, a project
of the Vera Institute of Justice.

To the Editor:

"Drug Laws That Destroy Lives" (editorial, May 24) makes drug users
and sellers sound like victims rather than like the criminals they

The women you refer to should have given thought to their children's
best interests before they used or sold drugs. Moreover, you report,
one brazenly refused a generous plea offer and "chose to go to trial."

As for their young children, who can say what other bad influences
their drugged parents might have exposed them to had they not been
convicted and imprisoned? The removal of their parents from their
daily lives may have been the best thing that could have happened to

The law-abiding public should rejoice at having these criminals
removed from the general population. The Rockefeller laws of 1973
should be strongly maintained and enforced.

Brooklyn, May 24, 2000
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