Pubdate: Wed, 7 Jan 2009
Source: New York Observer, The (NY)
Copyright: 2009 The New York Observer
Author: Jimmy Vielkind
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


ALBANY--Will this actually be the year for Rockefeller Drug Law

"I think we have a better shot than ever if Paterson takes a
leadership role," said Anthony Papa, who served 12 years under the
laws before he was granted clemency by George Pataki in 1997.

David Paterson mentioned the need to reform the laws in his speech
yesterday, saying he "cannot think of a criminal justice strategy that
has been more unsuccessful" in its purpose. He was a supporter of
reforming the laws as a state senator.

"Even to have the issue addressed in the State of the State is big
news. It shows he has some compassion for Rockefeller offenders," said
Papa. He noted that a week ago, the laws didn't appear to be on
Paterson's radar. The governor eventually granted clemency to one
inmate serving a drug crime sentence.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was glad to hear the call for
reform in the speech, and called the laws "draconian."

The real shift lies in the State Senate. The laws have been held up
there for years, with State Senator Dale Volker leading the charge.
Malcolm Smith has said he supports reforming the laws. Skelos was
asked about it:

"I'm going to rely on Dale Volker working on that with our
conference," he said. "I want to see what reforms we're talking about,
but we have to be very careful in terms of any changes that anybody
that's been a real drug dealer, they deserve to be in jail."

Another factor is the State Commission on Sentencing Reform, created
by Eliot Spitzer to look at the laws. It's unclear how closely
Paterson will mirror the commission's recommendations, which Papa
doesn't believe will go far enough. 
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