Ashley O'Donoghue is a low-level, nonviolent offender currently
serving a 7-to-21-year sentence for the sale of 2 1/2 ounces of
cocaine. In September 2003, the Oneida County district attorney
claimed that the 20-year-old was a major drug kingpin and needed to
face a life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Reacting to a commonly used scare tactic, O'Donoghue agreed to a plea
bargain. His A-1 felony, the highest possible felony, was reduced to a
B felony. Like magic, O'Donoghue was no longer a kingpin - that is, a
drug dealer distributing extraordinarily large quantities.
Regarding Anthony Papa's thoughtful article, "The state should target
the real drug kingpins" [Opinion, July 26], the much-hyped reform of
New York's Rockefeller drug laws is merely a step in the right
direction. The incremental changes under way will still put far too
many nonviolent drug offenders behind bars. The drug war is not the
promoter of family values that some would have us believe.
Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness,
addiction and delinquency. Not only do the children lose out, but
society as a whole does, too. Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders
alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with
a taxpayer-funded education in criminal behavior.