Pubdate: Sun, 25 Feb 2007
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2007 Newsday Inc.
Author: Michael Amon
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


Village of Hempstead officials teamed up with churches, civic 
activists and educators yesterday to call for the repeal of New 
York's Rockefeller drug laws.

The Rev. Sedgwick Easley, of Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, said 
the laws have hurt minority communities such as Hempstead, which 
recently has seen a spike in crime related to turf wars between youths.

The laws, though well intended, have kept many minority men in prison 
for too long, leaving their children fatherless and creating a cycle 
of violence, activists said. "We're here to hold politicians' feet to 
the fire," Easley said at a meeting of more than 100 at the church.

"The drug laws affect this community," Easley said, "because the drug 
laws discriminate against people of color and this is a community of color."

The meeting was the first in a series of crime prevention forums 
organized by Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall.

The drug laws were passed in 1973 in response to a heroin epidemic 
and named after then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The laws imposed 
minimum sentences of 15 years to life for those convicted of 
possessing more than 2 ounces of heroin or cocaine.

Hall said the laws should be changed to put more offenders into 
community-based rehab programs. The current system has destroyed 
families and misplaced resources, he said.

Supporters of the laws contend that incarcerating drug dealers for 
long periods takes them out of communities and allows neighborhoods 
to be rebuilt.

More than 90 percent of the prisoners behind bars under the 
Rockefeller statutes are minorities, according to The Correctional 
Association of New York, a group advocating changes.

After steady criticism, the minimum sentences for the most serious 
felony drug offenses were lowered by the State Legislature, but drug 
treatment advocates say the changes weren't enough.
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