Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jan 1999
Source: United Press International
Copyright: 1999 United Press International


NEW YORK, - Human Rights Watch says newly obtained state figures show
nearly 80 percent of drug offenders who received prison sentences in 1997
have never been convicted of a violent felony, and one in four was
convicted of simple possession.

The international human rights group says the figures suggest most drug
offenders are street-level sellers, addicts supporting their habit through
low-level positions in the drug trade, mules who carry drugs for someone
else, and dealers' girlfriends and wives.

The group says the data they requested from the state Division of Criminal
Justice Services and the Department of Correctional Services also shows
half of the imprisoned drug offenders had never been convicted of a drug

The group calls the stiff sentences for minor drug offenders mandated by
the drug laws passed under the administration of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller a
quarter of a century ago ``misguided and destructive when it comes to
nonviolent drug offenders.''

The group also calls the sentences unduly harsh. As an example, the group
says over 1,200 people are in prison for class D felony possession, which
requires only a half-gram or roughly $50 worth of cocaine for conviction.
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