Pubdate: Mon, 15 Oct 2002
Source: Albany Times Union (NY)
Address: News Plaza, Box 15000, Albany, NY 12212
Copyright: 2002 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Elizabeth Benjamin, Capitol Bureau


Gubernatorial Candidate Will Outline Plan To Seek Treatment For Nonviolent 
First-Time Offenders

NEW YORK -- Jumping into the battle for the support of Hispanic and black 
voters in the governor's race, Independence Party candidate B. Thomas 
Golisano will today call for repeal of the strict Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Golisano's aides said he will outline his plan at a news conference in 
Harlem and unveil a TV commercial featuring Mothers of the New York 
Disappeared, whose relatives are serving long prison sentences under the 
1973 laws.

The group's spokesman, Randy Credico, is poised to endorse Golisano's third 
bid for governor, according to Golisano's political consultant, Roger 
Stone. He said the plan calls for addiction treatment as an alternative to 
prison for nonviolent drug offenders convicted of lesser offenses who have 
no criminal history, and stiffer penalties for traffickers. "Tom is the 
most conservative candidate in the race, but he has looked at this 
situation and determined these laws are harsh, ineffective and expensive," 
Stone said.

The move by Golisano is aimed at getting votes downstate, where polls show 
his support is lowest. Golisano has concentrated his efforts and much of 
the $39.7 million he's spent -- upstate, focusing on fiscal restraint and 
job creation.

A poll by Penn, Schoen & Berland found Golisano with about 20 percent of 
the vote and trailing Democrat H. Carl McCall by about 10 percentage points 
statewide. McCall trails GOP Gov. George Pataki by roughly 11 points. 
Upstate, where Golisano lives and founded his company, Paychex Inc., the 
poll found he is leading McCall.

Golisano's call to repeal the drug laws also is designed to pull support 
from Pataki, who leads McCall among New York City's Hispanic voters, 
according to an August poll by the Hispanic Federation.

Critics of the laws, which mandate long to life sentences for possessing or 
selling relatively small amounts of drugs, maintain they disproportionately 
affect Hispanics and African-Americans, who make up the bulk of New York's 
inmates serving drug sentences. McCall proposed a reform plan earlier in 
the campaign, but has not called for full repeal.

His campaign manager, Allen Cappelli, said: "The difference between reform 
and repeal is largely semantics," and said he doubted that Golisano's drug 
law reform plan will attract Hispanics or blacks now supporting Pataki.

Many Democrats are banking on the historic nature of McCall's candidacy -- 
he is New York's first black candidate for governor -- to energize the 
black vote and bring core party members home on Election Day.

While the governor called for changes in the laws in his 2001 and 2002 
State of the State addresses, critics contend those proposals don't go far 
enough in restoring judicial discretion and won't affect most drug offenders.

Pataki campaign spokeswoman Mollie Fullington had no comment on Golisano's 
plan, but said: "No governor has worked harder to reform the Rockefeller 
Drug Laws."

Pataki tried to win the support of Mothers of the New York Disappeared in 
June for a bill passed by the GOP-controlled state Senate that would 
restructure prison sentences for only the highest level, or Class A, drug 

The group appeared instead at a news conference with Speaker Sheldon 
Silver, leader of the Democratic-controlled state Assembly, to criticize 
the governor's plan.
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