ANTHONY PAPA THANKING GOV. PATERSON FOR REFORMING THE ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS IN 2009

 

 

Sorry I have stopped updating this section on Rockefeller Drug Law news.  Researchers and readers you can  review articles from 2003.  Thanks,  Tony Papa

 

 
Anthony Papa is the author of several books including "This Side Of Freedom" and "Life After Clemency."
 
Anthony Papa joins us to discuss his books This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency and 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. He'll share his experiences returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug crime sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. Last year, he received a pardon from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and became the first person in the state’s history to receive both clemency and a pardon. 

http://www.wnyc.org/story/anthony-papa/  (listen)

 

 

City & State New York / The Slant Pod Cast

 Portrait of a Pardon: Criminal Justice Activist Anthony Papa 

 1/17/2017  Interviewed by Nick Powell & Gerson Borrero

Audio: The Slant – Portrait of a Pardon http://199.73.109.205/

 Does 15 years to life for one drug deal sound excessive to you? Our guest this week, Anthony Papa, is a living example of the ineffectiveness of the Rockefeller drug laws. Papa served 12 years at Sing Sing for a nonviolent drug crime before Governor George Pataki commuted his sentence in 1996. Just last month, Andrew Cuomo officially pardoned Papa, clearing his record after 20 years of criminal justice activism fighting for criminal justice reform and against the excesses of the United States’ War on Drugs.

 

 

Democracy Now: NY: Anti-Drug-War Activist Anthony Papa Wins Pardon

Headlines Jan 10, 2017

In New York state, anti-drug-war activist, painter and author Anthony Papa has received a pardon from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In 1985, Papa agreed to deliver an envelope of cocaine in a police sting operation in return for $500. His first and only criminal offense cost him a 15-year-to-life sentence. In 1996, Papa won a sentence commutation from then-New York Governor George Pataki. He’s believed to be the first person in New York state history to receive both a sentence commutation and a pardon.

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/1/10/headlines/ny_anti_drug_war_activist_anthony_papa_wins_pardon  (full clip)

 

Democracy Now! DPA's Tony Papa Granted a Pardon from NY Gov. Cuomo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlfaRriN-AA&feature=youtu.be  (33 seconds)

 

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/n-y-drug-reform-activist-anthony-papa-pardoned-gov-cuomo-article-1.2940759

State officials also believe Papa is the first person in New York history to receive both a sentence commutation — which then-Gov. George Pataki granted him in 1996 — and a pardon. 

EXCLUSIVE: N.Y. drug reform activist Anthony Papa receives pardon from Cuomo

BY Glenn Blain

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, January 9, 2017

 Anthony Papa leads protests against Rockefeller-era drug laws.

Exported.;

 

(Andrade, Patrick)

[After nearly two decades of fighting to get other drug offenders released from prison, Anthony Papa finally received a pardon for himself.

A longtime activist in the fight to reform New York’s drug laws, Papa was among the more than 100 offenders granted a pardon or commutation by Gov. Cuomo on Dec. 30.

 While Papa’s pardon has been largely overshadowed by the controversy over Cuomo’s decision to commute the sentence of former Weather Underground member Judith Clark, Papa and other advocates see it as a significant milestone.

State officials also believe Papa is the first person in New York history to receive both a sentence commutation — which then-Gov. George Pataki granted him in 1996 — and a pardon.

 “The pardon . . . is both a vindication and a public proclamation that I have demonstrated exemplary behavior over the 20 years since I have been free,” Papa, a 62-year-old Brooklyn resident, told the Daily News.

Papa said it’s also a vindication of his belief that the 15-year-to-life sentence he received as a first-time drug offender in 1985 was overly harsh.

The sentence was typical of those handed out under New York’s Rockefeller-era drug laws, which were adopted in response to the heroin epidemic of the early 1970s.

 “He is a living example of the inequities in the system that existed due to the Rockefeller-era drug laws and has spent more than a decade working in the pursuit of justice for others,” Cuomo said.

 Anthony Papa shown with some of his art work. State officials believe Papa is the first person in New York history to receive both a sentence commutation and pardon.

exp;

(Roca, John)

 “The power of clemency is one I take very seriously, and Tony Papa’s work and deeds made it clear to me he was deserving of a pardon.”

Papa was convicted on drug sale and possession charges after he was caught holding just over 4 ounces of cocaine a friend paid him $500 to take from the Bronx to Mount Vernon in Westchester County.

 “It was Christmastime, I had no money, I had to pay my rent and I got desperate,” Papa said. “And when you get desperate, you do stupid things.”

While in prison, Papa focused on art, and one of his paintings — a self-portrait — was selected for an exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

After Pataki commuted his sentence, Papa became an activist for reforming the Rockefeller laws. He formed the group Mothers of the New York Disappeared to advocate for change and also went to work for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 Papa wrote two books about his experiences, with his latest memoir, “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency,” now being distributed to prison libraries in New York as a reference for inmates to prepare for their release.

 In 2002, Papa teamed up with Cuomo, who was then in the midst of his first campaign for governor, to press the issue of drug law reform.

 People rally for the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws outside the NYC Bar Association on west 44th st as the Sentencing Commission holds public hearings inside.Anthony Papa, a former inmate who wrote a book about his experience, talks to the crowd.

People rally for the repeal of  the Rockefeller Drug Laws outside the NYC Bar Association on west 44th st as the Sentencing Commission holds public hearings inside.Anthony Papa, a former inmate who wrote a book about his experience, talks to the crowd.

 

(Cataffo, Linda/New York Daily News)

 “He used to come out in the street and rally with us,” Papa said.

Cuomo’s 2002 campaign flamed out, but the issue did not, and in 2009, lawmakers approved a package of drug law reforms that, among other things, gave judges more flexibility to sentence low-level offenders to treatment instead of prison.

Despite his relationship with Cuomo, Papa did not formally request a pardon for himself until last year, after he was shut out of an apartment he wanted in Parkchester, the Bronx.

 “The same crap happened,” he said. “They looked at me like I had two heads.”

Papa said he is grateful to Cuomo for granting the pardon — calling him “a champion of the people” — and is looking forward to regaining rights he lost because of his conviction, especially the ability to serve on a jury.

 He also plans to continue his work helping other nonviolent drug offenders get out of prison and adjust to life on the outside.

“There are many roadblocks that people face when they are released, from housing to getting a job, even relationships,” Papa said. “Prison does not end at the prison wall. It goes beyond the wall.”

 

 

The Fix  

https://www.thefix.com/gov-cuomo-pardons-drug-reformer-anthony-papa-issues-dozens-clemencies

Gov. Cuomo Pardons Drug Reformer Anthony Papa, Issues Dozens of Clemencies

By Keri Blakinger  01/03/17

 Since his release in the late '90s, Papa has published two books and works at the Drug Policy Alliance. 

 Mario Cuomo, Anthony Papa and Andrew Cuomo back in 2004. Photo used with the permission of Anthony Papa

 Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday granted 101 conditional pardons and 12 other clemencies—including a pardon to drug-reform activist Anthony Papa. 

 Convicted of a first-time drug offense in 1985, Papa served 12 years under draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws before he was released and went on to work at the Drug Policy Alliance. Now with the newly announced pardon, the 62-year-old former prisoner will be able to enjoy the restoration of some of the many rights forfeited after a felony conviction.

 “Being granted the pardon was a vindication for me in that it showed that my punishment did not fit the crime,” Papa told The Fix the day after news of the pardons broke.

 End-of-year clemencies are a gubernatorial tradition in New York, but Papa’s pardon is unusual because the artist and writer was also previously granted a sentence commutation by former Gov. George Pataki in 1997. 

 Papa was initially convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree after police used aconfidential informant to set up a sting. Under some of the nation’s harshest drug laws, the New York City native was sentenced to 15-to-life. He got out after 12 years, when Pataki commuted his sentence. 

 Since then, he’s published two books and spent more than 10 years working at the Drug Policy Alliance

“Tony Papa broke the law but the real crime was committed by the State of New York when it locked him up for 15–to-life for a first time, non-violent drug transaction,” DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann said Friday in a statement.

 Papa thanked the governor, hailing him as a “champion of the people” in the release. 

 “The road to freedom was not an easy one, and maintaining that freedom is not easy because of the many roadblocks for formerly incarcerated individuals,” Papa said. “I have tried to set an example to show that people can become productive citizens upon release if given the opportunity.”

 Another high-profile beneficiary of Cuomo’s annual goodwill is Judith Clark. Unlike Papa, who received a post-prison pardon, Clark was given a sentence commutation that will make her eligible for release decades sooner than expected. 

 Clark, 67, has served more than 35 years behind bars for her role as the getaway driver in an infamous 1981 Brinks armored car robbery that resulted in the deaths of three people, including two police officers.

 She’s been locked up for longer than her six co-defendants, most of whom are either dead or out of prison. One, Kathy Boudin, had a similar role in the crime and is now a professor at Columbia University.

 During her time in prison, Clark earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, taught pre-natal parenting courses, founded an HIV/AIDS education program, trained service dogs, and served as a college tutor. Under her original sentence of 75-to-life, she wouldn’t have become eligible for parole till she was 106 years old. Now, she’ll be able to appear before the parole board in early 2017. 

 While Clark’s and Papa’s clemencies were part of a longstanding tradition, the Cuomo administration has frequently been stingy with the annual gubernatorial act of mercy, especially when it comes to commutations. But Friday’s actions could hint at a new approach to legal forgiveness.  

 The 101 conditional pardons also mark a new chapter in New York state’s approach to criminal justice and re-entry. 

 The first of their kind in the nation, the conditional pardons were granted to non-violent offenders who were convicted as minors and have been crime-free for at least a decade. Cuomo initially announced plans for large-scale conditional pardons back in 2015, but didn’t make good on them till the final days of 2016. 

"New York is a state of opportunity and today, we are granting these individuals and others a second chance to live up to their full potential, provide for their families and give back to their communities,” Cuomo said in a statement Friday. 

 “With these actions, we have taken one more step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York for all."

 

 

 Huffington Post

What my Pardon from Governor Andrew Cuomo Means to Me

Anthony Papa, Drug Policy Alliance   January 2, 2017

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/what-my-pardon-from-gover_b_13928944.html

 On Dec. 30, 2016 I received a call from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office informing me that I was just granted a pardon. My knees shook and arms got numb as the news sunk in. It was the exact feeling I had in 1996 in Sing Sing prison when I was told by the Deputy of Security that I was granted executive clemency by then Governor George Pataki. But now was different than then. Back then I was on the tail end of serving a 15 to Life sentence for passing an envelope of 4 and a half ounces of cocaine to under-cover officers. I was to make a fast 500 dollars for the delivery. Being desperate I wound up doing a stupid thing to make some fast money. I not only ruined my life, I ruined the life of my 7-year-old daughter Stephanie who until this day has never recovered from the stigma generated from the crime that I committed.

 When released I had to learn how to be free once again. I had served twelve years in prison and five years on parole and lived in total fear that I would violate my conditions of parole and be thrown back into prison. I found out quickly that a simple walk in my crime infested South Bronx neighborhood or a train ride in the NYC subway system could easily escalate into a situation that would cause me to lose my freedom. Overwhelming joy and happiness dominated my first few days’ home, but once these initial emotions began to fade, I realized the freedom I fought so long and hard to win was not what I imagined it to be. The way of life I once knew was gone, along with my friends and most of my support base. I discovered I was alone in a new world that had drastically changed without me. 

 Getting my life back on track was no easy matter especially finding out that governmental road blocks existed at almost every level of my re-entry. I searched for a solution to my problems and realized that when my cell door was shut behind me, I did not leave behind those twelve years of hard time. When those prison doors close behind you and you leave its confines, you are not free. You are still doing time—just doing it on the other side of the bars. I soon found out that prison life was deeply rooted into my present existence; a decade of life in an environment where survival mechanisms and behaviors were hardwired into daily existence had changed me profoundly.

 Being hard-wired for survival was a good thing. In the free world, though, it was another matter, especially when these mechanisms would surface suddenly and without warning. The tools that were once lifesaving had become a tremendous burden as I tried to get my life back together. I had survived the prison experience and made my way to freedom by creative self-expression, painting, but I was soon to learn that freedom had its costs. I talk about this in my new memoir “This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency. For many, including myself, carrying the stigma of being an ex-offender is often debilitating. From being denied employment and housing, to not knowing how to establish healthy relationships, life became exceedingly difficult.

 With this pardon I become the first individual in New York State to receive clemency and a pardon which helps vindicate the draconian 15-to-life sentence I received as a fist time non-violent offender. It indicates forgiveness of my crime from the government because the punishment I received was not appropriate. It is also a public proclamation that I have demonstrated exemplary behavior since being released and it shows that people in prison can successfully re-enter society without negative results. I pray that Governor Cuomo continues to show compassion for those that deserve it and he continues to use his pardon power.

 

Wall Street Journal

Cuomo Pardons 101 New Yorkers Convicted as Minors

 New York’s governor also commutes the sentences of seven, including the getaway driver in deadly 1981 robbery of a Brink’s armored car

 by Corinne Ramey December 30, 2017

 http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomo-pardons-101-new-yorkers-convicted-as-minors-1483140011

 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned 101 New Yorkers who were convicted when they were 16 or 17 years old, in what state officials said was part of an effort to remove barriers to housing and employment for those who committed crimes in their youth.

 The pardons by Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, went only to those convicted of nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors who have remained conviction-free for at least 10 years, officials said. The pardons are conditional, meaning they can be withdrawn if a person is convicted.

 He also pardoned five people who had been convicted as adults and commuted the sentences of seven still in prison.

 Friday’s pardons are a notable departure from past years. In 2015, the governor pardoned three people and commuted the sentences of three others, and in 2014, he pardoned two. Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, said those pardoned who committed crimes as young people had demonstrated they had been rehabilitated. “If you made a mistake at 16 or 17 you shouldn’t be affected by that mistake at 40 years old,” he said.

 The state plans to continue issuing such pardons in the coming years, Mr. David said. State officials estimate 10,000 people fit the eligibility for such pardons. This year, about 260 applied, Mr. David said.

 Ruthie Epstein, deputy advocacy director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, praised Friday’s pardons but said they are a stopgap measure for what she views as the state’s harsh sentencing laws. New York is one of only two states nationwide that treats 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults, she said.

 “It doesn’t rectify the underlying injustice that got them in prison in the first place,” Ms. Epstein said.

 One of those whose sentence was commuted was Judith Clark, 67 years old, a political activist who was a member of the Weather Underground. She was convicted in 1983 for driving the getaway vehicle in a 1981 Brink’s armored car robbery, in Nanuet, N.Y., in which two police offers and a security guard were killed. Ms. Clark has served 35 years of a 75 years-to-life sentence, state officials said. Friday’s commutation makes her eligible to appear before the state parole board.

 State officials said Ms. Clark had “made exceptional strides in self-development” while in prison. They said she had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, founded an HIV/AIDS education program and trained service dogs as part of the Puppies Behind Bars program.

 Anthony Papa, who was pardoned Friday, was convicted of drug charges in 1985. While he has been out of prison since 1997, he said he views the pardon as a vindication. It also removes some barriers that come with a criminal record, he said.

 “Every time I went for an apartment I was always terrified they would find out and throw me in the street,” said Mr. Papa, 62 years old, an author and artist who works at advocacy-group the Drug Policy Alliance.

 Write to Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com

 

 

cid:image001.jpg@01D25BB2.A8536670

DPA's Anthony Papa with Jenn Lahmers on Obama's Record Commutations ( FOX 5 News Obama Clemency) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8WzJPRgUHw (12/20/16)

FOX 5 reporter Jennifer Lahmers said "Anthony Papa is an example of how the presidential pardoning system works well. In the mid 80s Papa was strapped for cash and described doing what he said was the biggest mistake of his life-- agreeing to run an envelope with 4.5 oz of cocaine to someone he had never met. It turns out that someone was a participant in an undercover police sting, Papa was arrested and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. While at Sing-Sing he earned 3 degrees and read as many books as he could. In 1997 he was pardoned by Gov. Pataki and for the last 10 years has remained one of the state's biggest advocates against mass incarceration. We sat down with him tonight as President Obama made history by granting the greatest number of clemencies in a single day by any US president."  

Papa's new memoir "This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency is available on Amazon goo.gl/GfVQC7   for more on the war on drugs www.drugpolicy.org to see Tony Papa's art go to his website  www.15tolife.com

 

WBAI Radio Randy Credico interview 12/13/16/ goo.gl/OXEoA6   audio

 Roger Stone famous political advisor and #1 author on the NY Times bestselling list on his new radio show  "The Cold Stone Truth"  interviewed Tony Papa says: "This Side of Freedom is a terrific piece of work. I am very excited about it and wish everyone can read it!"

https://soundcloud.com/anthony-papa-994912770  Nov. 14, 2016    goo.gl/alT1Ez   audio

 Rooster Magazine Interview   Nov. 29, 2016    goo.gl/fCZ4LT



Tony Papa at the PEN Prison Writing Awards 2016    goo.gl/wC7QZz

 

 Cultural Baggage Radio Show  / 5/6/16/Tony Papa, Mgr of Media relations at DPA has a new book This Side of Freedom 

 www.drugtruth.net/cms/audio/download/5813/FDBCB_050616.mp3

Transcript

 

 Let Them Talk    8/10/16/Anthony Papa advocate against the war on drugs ( video interview) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOOjS431IW0

 

KBOO Prison Pipeline Radio Interview  8/1/2016  http://www.kboo.fm/media/51399-side-freedom

15 Years To Life – Anthony Papa – 12-Step Radio: Addiction, R ecovery. Steppin' Out Radio 6/25/16/   goo.gl/dhfwEZ

 

NY Times LTE  Violence in Prison goo.gl/XQ4vcn  Nov 22, 2016

 

Regaining life after prison a burden with new struggles By Anthony Papa, Commentary December 13, 2016

 http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Regaining-life-after-prison-a-burden-with-new-10793935.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop

 

 The Rooster

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

By Brian Frederick , November 29, 2016

 http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

Vices November 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Anthony “Tony” Papa once spent 12 years behind bars for a small crime he committed in a time of weakness. He did so to come up on “some easy money,“ and readily admits it was one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made. He now spends every waking hour of his life as an activist against mandatory drug sentencing laws, with a concentration on educating ex-cons so they have a better chance of never landing in trouble again while they’re free — like so many of them often do.

And much like millions of others in America, he’s worried about the future of the country.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation,” Papa says of the election results. “This whole Trump thing took everyone by surprise, so now we just gotta deal with it.”

He says he and the Drug Policy Alliance (where he’s worked for over a decade now) have made tremendous strides in the fight against mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. It hasn’t exactly been easy doing so during the past two terms with Barrack Obama in office, but could grow even more difficult with the newly chosen sheriff in town.

That’s because President-elect Donald Trump has named a few worrisome men to fill key positions in his administration. One scares Papa the most. His name is Jeff Sessions, and he’s likely to become America’s next Attorney General. He’s also about the worst possible choice for anyone in the position of fighting for equal rights and lightening the load on non-violent drug offenders.

However, it’s a fight that Papa and his team plan on continuing, even in the face of extreme complications.

“We’re trying to rally the troops,” he explains. “We’re getting everybody we can in all realms of activism, of civil rights, against the drug war, and speak out and get everybody to rally to stop this guy from becoming the Attorney General.”

Sessions is frightening to many like Papa because of his hard stance on drugs and the law. He admits to hating marijuana, is cool with controversial “stop and frisk” laws (that have already been deemed unconstitutional) and relies heavily on misinformation about the dangers of drugs.

Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of National Affairs in Washington D.C., agrees with Papa’s feelings toward Sessions. In a recent media teleconference, he points out the devastating effects a Sessions ran office could have on already structured policies helping battle the war on drugs.

“[Sessions] recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug, said ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ and has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws,” he said. “If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform. He could undo the important changes Eric Holder made including expanding the use of mandatory minimum sentencing and reversing course on important consent decrees.”

He scares many, but at this point, the fears all surround only speculation on what these men can and can not do with their positions. It won’t be until January, when all members are sworn in and given the keys to their respective offices, that the country will finally be able to feel the temperature of the pot it's gotten itself into.

Even still, Papa at least remains hopeful that a Trump administration would have little impact on the gray area that forever haunts the cannabis industry. He says it’s too locked into our culture right now for him to be able to do anything — at least that’s what he’s betting on anyway.

“Trump’s a businessman,” he says. “It’s so far into the American lifestyle. I mean, 7 more states voted it in. You’ll have a civil war if he tries to pull it back. So many people and businesses are in it.”

He’s just going to continue on with his many projects he’s working on right now, such as the Prison Letter Project (of which he says he has thousands of messages from prisoners telling their own stories about the failed justice system), and expanding his Prison Library Project after receiving a substantial grant to continue teaching men and women how to survive in a world built for them to fail.

“I’m trying to reduce massive incarceration by education, by educating prisoners before they come out, to prepare them and thus reducing recidivism,” he says. “That’s my attempt to reduce mass incarceration.”

He’s also altering his title at the DPA by incorporating art into the fight against injustice — something he learned while locked up himself.

“It’s a hard sell,” he admits, “but you know what, I’m doing it.”

Create. Educate. Fight. It’s all anyone can do at this point, says Papa.

- See more at: http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america#sthash.u2gz68cn.dpuf

 

 

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

VicesNovember 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Anthony “Tony” Papa once spent 12 years behind bars for a small crime he committed in a time of weakness. He did so to come up on “some easy money,“ and readily admits it was one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made. He now spends every waking hour of his life as an activist against mandatory drug sentencing laws, with a concentration on educating ex-cons so they have a better chance of never landing in trouble again while they’re free — like so many of them often do.

And much like millions of others in America, he’s worried about the future of the country.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation,” Papa says of the election results. “This whole Trump thing took everyone by surprise, so now we just gotta deal with it.”

He says he and the Drug Policy Alliance (where he’s worked for over a decade now) have made tremendous strides in the fight against mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. It hasn’t exactly been easy doing so during the past two terms with Barrack Obama in office, but could grow even more difficult with the newly chosen sheriff in town.

That’s because President-elect Donald Trump has named a few worrisome men to fill key positions in his administration. One scares Papa the most. His name is Jeff Sessions, and he’s likely to become America’s next Attorney General. He’s also about the worst possible choice for anyone in the position of fighting for equal rights and lightening the load on non-violent drug offenders.

However, it’s a fight that Papa and his team plan on continuing, even in the face of extreme complications.

“We’re trying to rally the troops,” he explains. “We’re getting everybody we can in all realms of activism, of civil rights, against the drug war, and speak out and get everybody to rally to stop this guy from becoming the Attorney General.”

Sessions is frightening to many like Papa because of his hard stance on drugs and the law. He admits to hating marijuana, is cool with controversial “stop and frisk” laws (that have already been deemed unconstitutional) and relies heavily on misinformation about the dangers of drugs.

Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of National Affairs in Washington D.C., agrees with Papa’s feelings toward Sessions. In a recent media teleconference, he points out the devastating effects a Sessions ran office could have on already structured policies helping battle the war on drugs.

“[Sessions] recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug, said ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ and has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws,” he said. “If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform. He could undo the important changes Eric Holder made including expanding the use of mandatory minimum sentencing and reversing course on important consent decrees.”

He scares many, but at this point, the fears all surround only speculation on what these men can and can not do with their positions. It won’t be until January, when all members are sworn in and given the keys to their respective offices, that the country will finally be able to feel the temperature of the pot it's gotten itself into.

Even still, Papa at least remains hopeful that a Trump administration would have little impact on the gray area that forever haunts the cannabis industry. He says it’s too locked into our culture right now for him to be able to do anything — at least that’s what he’s betting on anyway.

“Trump’s a businessman,” he says. “It’s so far into the American lifestyle. I mean, 7 more states voted it in. You’ll have a civil war if he tries to pull it back. So many people and businesses are in it.”

He’s just going to continue on with his many projects he’s working on right now, such as the Prison Letter Project (of which he says he has thousands of messages from prisoners telling their own stories about the failed justice system), and expanding his Prison Library Project after receiving a substantial grant to continue teaching men and women how to survive in a world built for them to fail.

“I’m trying to reduce massive incarceration by education, by educating prisoners before they come out, to prepare them and thus reducing recidivism,” he says. “That’s my attempt to reduce mass incarceration.”

He’s also altering his title at the DPA by incorporating art into the fight against injustice — something he learned while locked up himself.

“It’s a hard sell,” he admits, “but you know what, I’m doing it.”

Create. Educate. Fight. It’s all anyone can do at this point, says Papa.

- See more at: http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america#sthash.u2gz68cn.dpuf

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

VicesNovember 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Anthony “Tony” Papa once spent 12 years behind bars for a small crime he committed in a time of weakness. He did so to come up on “some easy money,“ and readily admits it was one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made. He now spends every waking hour of his life as an activist against mandatory drug sentencing laws, with a concentration on educating ex-cons so they have a better chance of never landing in trouble again while they’re free — like so many of them often do.

And much like millions of others in America, he’s worried about the future of the country.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation,” Papa says of the election results. “This whole Trump thing took everyone by surprise, so now we just gotta deal with it.”

He says he and the Drug Policy Alliance (where he’s worked for over a decade now) have made tremendous strides in the fight against mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. It hasn’t exactly been easy doing so during the past two terms with Barrack Obama in office, but could grow even more difficult with the newly chosen sheriff in town.

That’s because President-elect Donald Trump has named a few worrisome men to fill key positions in his administration. One scares Papa the most. His name is Jeff Sessions, and he’s likely to become America’s next Attorney General. He’s also about the worst possible choice for anyone in the position of fighting for equal rights and lightening the load on non-violent drug offenders.

However, it’s a fight that Papa and his team plan on continuing, even in the face of extreme complications.

“We’re trying to rally the troops,” he explains. “We’re getting everybody we can in all realms of activism, of civil rights, against the drug war, and speak out and get everybody to rally to stop this guy from becoming the Attorney General.”

Sessions is frightening to many like Papa because of his hard stance on drugs and the law. He admits to hating marijuana, is cool with controversial “stop and frisk” laws (that have already been deemed unconstitutional) and relies heavily on misinformation about the dangers of drugs.

Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of National Affairs in Washington D.C., agrees with Papa’s feelings toward Sessions. In a recent media teleconference, he points out the devastating effects a Sessions ran office could have on already structured policies helping battle the war on drugs.

“[Sessions] recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug, said ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ and has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws,” he said. “If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform. He could undo the important changes Eric Holder made including expanding the use of mandatory minimum sentencing and reversing course on important consent decrees.”

He scares many, but at this point, the fears all surround only speculation on what these men can and can not do with their positions. It won’t be until January, when all members are sworn in and given the keys to their respective offices, that the country will finally be able to feel the temperature of the pot it's gotten itself into.

Even still, Papa at least remains hopeful that a Trump administration would have little impact on the gray area that forever haunts the cannabis industry. He says it’s too locked into our culture right now for him to be able to do anything — at least that’s what he’s betting on anyway.

“Trump’s a businessman,” he says. “It’s so far into the American lifestyle. I mean, 7 more states voted it in. You’ll have a civil war if he tries to pull it back. So many people and businesses are in it.”

He’s just going to continue on with his many projects he’s working on right now, such as the Prison Letter Project (of which he says he has thousands of messages from prisoners telling their own stories about the failed justice system), and expanding his Prison Library Project after receiving a substantial grant to continue teaching men and women how to survive in a world built for them to fail.

“I’m trying to reduce massive incarceration by education, by educating prisoners before they come out, to prepare them and thus reducing recidivism,” he says. “That’s my attempt to reduce mass incarceration.”

He’s also altering his title at the DPA by incorporating art into the fight against injustice — something he learned while locked up himself.

“It’s a hard sell,” he admits, “but you know what, I’m doing it.”

Create. Educate. Fight. It’s all anyone can do at this point, says Papa.

- See more at: http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america#sthash.u2gz68cn.dpuf

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

VicesNovember 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Anthony “Tony” Papa once spent 12 years behind bars for a small crime he committed in a time of weakness. He did so to come up on “some easy money,“ and readily admits it was one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made. He now spends every waking hour of his life as an activist against mandatory drug sentencing laws, with a concentration on educating ex-cons so they have a better chance of never landing in trouble again while they’re free — like so many of them often do.

And much like millions of others in America, he’s worried about the future of the country.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation,” Papa says of the election results. “This whole Trump thing took everyone by surprise, so now we just gotta deal with it.”

He says he and the Drug Policy Alliance (where he’s worked for over a decade now) have made tremendous strides in the fight against mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. It hasn’t exactly been easy doing so during the past two terms with Barrack Obama in office, but could grow even more difficult with the newly chosen sheriff in town.

That’s because President-elect Donald Trump has named a few worrisome men to fill key positions in his administration. One scares Papa the most. His name is Jeff Sessions, and he’s likely to become America’s next Attorney General. He’s also about the worst possible choice for anyone in the position of fighting for equal rights and lightening the load on non-violent drug offenders.

However, it’s a fight that Papa and his team plan on continuing, even in the face of extreme complications.

“We’re trying to rally the troops,” he explains. “We’re getting everybody we can in all realms of activism, of civil rights, against the drug war, and speak out and get everybody to rally to stop this guy from becoming the Attorney General.”

Sessions is frightening to many like Papa because of his hard stance on drugs and the law. He admits to hating marijuana, is cool with controversial “stop and frisk” laws (that have already been deemed unconstitutional) and relies heavily on misinformation about the dangers of drugs.

Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of National Affairs in Washington D.C., agrees with Papa’s feelings toward Sessions. In a recent media teleconference, he points out the devastating effects a Sessions ran office could have on already structured policies helping battle the war on drugs.

“[Sessions] recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug, said ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ and has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws,” he said. “If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform. He could undo the important changes Eric Holder made including expanding the use of mandatory minimum sentencing and reversing course on important consent decrees.”

He scares many, but at this point, the fears all surround only speculation on what these men can and can not do with their positions. It won’t be until January, when all members are sworn in and given the keys to their respective offices, that the country will finally be able to feel the temperature of the pot it's gotten itself into.

Even still, Papa at least remains hopeful that a Trump administration would have little impact on the gray area that forever haunts the cannabis industry. He says it’s too locked into our culture right now for him to be able to do anything — at least that’s what he’s betting on anyway.

“Trump’s a businessman,” he says. “It’s so far into the American lifestyle. I mean, 7 more states voted it in. You’ll have a civil war if he tries to pull it back. So many people and businesses are in it.”

He’s just going to continue on with his many projects he’s working on right now, such as the Prison Letter Project (of which he says he has thousands of messages from prisoners telling their own stories about the failed justice system), and expanding his Prison Library Project after receiving a substantial grant to continue teaching men and women how to survive in a world built for them to fail.

“I’m trying to reduce massive incarceration by education, by educating prisoners before they come out, to prepare them and thus reducing recidivism,” he says. “That’s my attempt to reduce mass incarceration.”

He’s also altering his title at the DPA by incorporating art into the fight against injustice — something he learned while locked up himself.

“It’s a hard sell,” he admits, “but you know what, I’m doing it.”

Create. Educate. Fight. It’s all anyone can do at this point, says Papa.

- See more at: http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america#sthash.u2gz68cn.dpuf

A former prisoner explains ‘what now’ for America

VicesNovember 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Anthony “Tony” Papa once spent 12 years behind bars for a small crime he committed in a time of weakness. He did so to come up on “some easy money,“ and readily admits it was one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made. He now spends every waking hour of his life as an activist against mandatory drug sentencing laws, with a concentration on educating ex-cons so they have a better chance of never landing in trouble again while they’re free — like so many of them often do.

And much like millions of others in America, he’s worried about the future of the country.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation,” Papa says of the election results. “This whole Trump thing took everyone by surprise, so now we just gotta deal with it.”

He says he and the Drug Policy Alliance (where he’s worked for over a decade now) have made tremendous strides in the fight against mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. It hasn’t exactly been easy doing so during the past two terms with Barrack Obama in office, but could grow even more difficult with the newly chosen sheriff in town.

That’s because President-elect Donald Trump has named a few worrisome men to fill key positions in his administration. One scares Papa the most. His name is Jeff Sessions, and he’s likely to become America’s next Attorney General. He’s also about the worst possible choice for anyone in the position of fighting for equal rights and lightening the load on non-violent drug offenders.

However, it’s a fight that Papa and his team plan on continuing, even in the face of extreme complications.

“We’re trying to rally the troops,” he explains. “We’re getting everybody we can in all realms of activism, of civil rights, against the drug war, and speak out and get everybody to rally to stop this guy from becoming the Attorney General.”

Sessions is frightening to many like Papa because of his hard stance on drugs and the law. He admits to hating marijuana, is cool with controversial “stop and frisk” laws (that have already been deemed unconstitutional) and relies heavily on misinformation about the dangers of drugs.

Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of National Affairs in Washington D.C., agrees with Papa’s feelings toward Sessions. In a recent media teleconference, he points out the devastating effects a Sessions ran office could have on already structured policies helping battle the war on drugs.

“[Sessions] recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug, said ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana,’ and has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws,” he said. “If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform. He could undo the important changes Eric Holder made including expanding the use of mandatory minimum sentencing and reversing course on important consent decrees.”

He scares many, but at this point, the fears all surround only speculation on what these men can and can not do with their positions. It won’t be until January, when all members are sworn in and given the keys to their respective offices, that the country will finally be able to feel the temperature of the pot it's gotten itself into.

Even still, Papa at least remains hopeful that a Trump administration would have little impact on the gray area that forever haunts the cannabis industry. He says it’s too locked into our culture right now for him to be able to do anything — at least that’s what he’s betting on anyway.

“Trump’s a businessman,” he says. “It’s so far into the American lifestyle. I mean, 7 more states voted it in. You’ll have a civil war if he tries to pull it back. So many people and businesses are in it.”

He’s just going to continue on with his many projects he’s working on right now, such as the Prison Letter Project (of which he says he has thousands of messages from prisoners telling their own stories about the failed justice system), and expanding his Prison Library Project after receiving a substantial grant to continue teaching men and women how to survive in a world built for them to fail.

“I’m trying to reduce massive incarceration by education, by educating prisoners before they come out, to prepare them and thus reducing recidivism,” he says. “That’s my attempt to reduce mass incarceration.”

He’s also altering his title at the DPA by incorporating art into the fight against injustice — something he learned while locked up himself.

“It’s a hard sell,” he admits, “but you know what, I’m doing it.”

Create. Educate. Fight. It’s all anyone can do at this point, says Papa.

- See more at: http://www.therooster.com/blog/former-prisoner-explains-%E2%80%98what-now%E2%80%99-america#sthash.u2gz68cn.dpuf

goo.gl/XDYiSJ  My activism loop ( 5 minutes)

 

 

Drug Policy Alliance

www.drugpolicy.org

 

For Immediate Release:                                                                      Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384

May 23, 2016                                                                                                       Anthony Papa 646-420-7290

 

Wednesday Event: Anti-Drug War Activist Anthony Papa Releases His New Book “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency

 

Papa’s Timely New Memoir Addresses the Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Reentry Issues as President Obama and Congress Seek Criminal Justice Reform

 

Book Release Event Coincides with Celebration of Papa’s 10-Year Anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance



Anthony Papa will release his new book, This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency at the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance (131 W. 33rd Street) on May 25th 2016.

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency is a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa. He tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug law violation, sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. While behind bars, Papa found his passion for art and his haunting self-portrait “15 to Life” ended up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa used his art and personal story to generate a wave of media attention and in 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa literally painted his way to freedom.

Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggled with his own freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to rebuild his life and continue his fight to end the war on drugs. Along the way he meets an array of individuals from famous movie stars to politicians and the very rich, enlisting their help in doing away with mass incarceration and draconian sentencing laws that have destroyed America's criminal justice system.

Papa’s book launch event will coincide with a celebration for his 10-year anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance, where he is manager of media and artist relations. His stinging editorials about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country and world. He is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues.

In addition to his new memoir, Papa is also author of “15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom(2004) a memoir about his experience of being sentenced to state prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. He has been interviewed by a wide range of national print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, National Public Radio, Democracy Now, and Court TV, among others. He has appeared on nationally syndicated talk shows such as MSNBC's "Melissa Harris Perry", CNN's "Your Money," Charles Grodin, Geraldo Rivera, and Catherine Crier Live. Papa's art has been exhibited widely, from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to many smaller cultural centers around the country. Papa has worked to end the war on drugs through many mediums, including as an artist, writer, co-founder of Mothers of the New York Disappeared and his ten years at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Advance praise for This Side of Freedom: "Anthony Papa's work, beginning with his incredible paintings, continuing with his ground-breaking memoir, “15 to Life,” and now this new offering, “This Side of Freedom,” is almost single-handedly documenting one of the greatest civil and human rights disruptions in our nation's history: the human destruction caused by the war on drugs policies. Papa brings us, in living color and painful authenticity, what these gross violations of human rights do to the spirit, but more, how the spirit can still soar despite mountains of adversity. His is truly on a hero's journey and one we should all take with him," said, asha bandele, author of “The Prisoner's Wife.”


What:  Book Release Event for “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency

Where: The Drug Policy Alliance 131 W. 33rd Street, NYC Office  15th Floor

When:  May 25th, 2016 5-8pm


This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency
by Anthony Papa
ISBN-978-1530731640  6 x 9  236 pages
$12.99
Paperback Pub Date: April 8, 2016

Anthony Papa¹s website: www.15tolife.com
available on Amazon  

Link to Release: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2016/05/wednesday-anti-drug-war-activist-anthony-papa-releases-his-new-book-side-freedom-life-a

 

 

 

The Unspeakable Personal Price of Our Failed 'War on Drugs': 'BradCast' 10/16/2015
GUEST: Artist, author and former felon Anthony Papa on criminal justice reform and his '15 years to life' for a first-time, non-violent drug crime...
ALSO: More climate dots connected; Trump, Jeb & Dubya; Arrest of a Fox 'News' fraud...
By Brad Friedman on 10/16/2015, 5:38pm PT  

We cover a lot of ground, yet again, on today's BradCast.

First: More climate change dots connected out here in California, as another freeway is shut down (the third in the last couple of months) thanks to yet another extreme weather disaster.

Next: As Donald Trump correctly notes that George W. Bush did not "keep us safe" either before or after 9/11, Jeb tries again to come to his brother's defense and fails almost as much as his own campaign is now floundering.

Then: With federal sentencing reform for non-violent drug offenders about to result in freedom for 6,000 federal inmates (and another 40,000 likely in the near future), we are joined today by artist and author Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Papa (self-portrait seen above in today's BradCast logo) shares his amazing story about how he was sentenced to "15 years to life" for a first-time, non-violent, drug-related crime under New York's "tough on crime", "war on drugs" policies of the 80s. He served 12 years of hard time --- for delivering 4 ounces of cocaine in exchange for $500 --- before he was finally granted clemency by the Governor.

He follows his first book, 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom up with his latest, An Open Letter to Men and Women Returning Home in the Age of Reform, just released on Kindle today.

Papa was lucky enough to earn three degrees while serving 12 years in prison, where he also discovered he knows how to paint. He now serves as Artist in Residence at Drug Policy Alliance and has had his work exhibited at the Whitney Museum. On today's show, in addition to his personal story, he shared his optimistic thoughts on criminal justice reform ("mandatory minimum sentencing became the poison that literally broke the system"), some words of advice to those about to be released ("these men and women coming home into a society that is not ready for them, can be a problem"), and his opinions on the outrage of restrictions on voting placed on both current and former felons.

"The greatest thing for me being in prison, was my discovery for me of my political awareness," he tells me. But, after his release, he learned he would still not be able to vote for another five years, even though he had served his time under laws passed by officials he should have been able to vote against. "Before I went to prison, I didn't even bother to vote. I was a regular Joe. When I came out, discovering I couldn't vote was very painful for me. So it took five years, but when the time came, I cast that vote. I felt like I was whole again. It was a wonderful feeling."

Finally today: Wayne Simmons, the "former CIA operative" regularly featured on Fox "News" for more than a decade, where he has been cited by wingnuts time and again on everything from Benghazi to torture to ISIS and their "19 paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States" (which don't exist), turns out to have never worked for the CIA at all and has now been arrested on federal fraud charges.

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

 

 

 

 

Leading the Way to Repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws!  On this page you can read the history of the movement from 2002. Start at the bottom of the page.

Did you know that the 2 watered down changes in the Rockefeller laws of 2004/5  has equated to 576 prisoners* set free of the 1,000 prisoners that were eligible

for relief (see Report: Drug Law Resentencing:Saving Tax Dollars with Minimal Community Risk ) by The Legal Aid Society /William Gibney, Esq.

 

without freedom, reform is meaningless!!!! Also read the stinging op-ed's and letters by Anthony Papa on criminal justice issues

 

FLASH!  December 6th, 2013   Papa talks about the new Human Rights Watch report titled "An Offer You Can't Refuse ."

 

AlterNet / By Anthony Papa

 

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/i-turned-down-3-years-prison-and-ended-15-life 

I Turned Down 3 Years in Prison and Ended up with 15 to Life

Prosecutors use mandatory minimum sentencing as a prosecutorial tool to get people to plead guilty without a fair trial.
 
 
December 5, 2013  |  
 

The following article first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog

Today a new report by Human Rights Watch titled “An Offer You Can’t Refuse” revealed that only three percent of U.S. drug defendants in federal cases chose to go to trial instead of pleading guilty in 2012. The report explains that the reason only three percent go to trial is because prosecutors warn defendants that if they refuse the plea and go to trial, they will be charged with a more series crime and end up with a much longer sentence.

Prosecutors live and die for convictions and they use mandatory minimum sentencing as a prosecutorial tool to secure convictions and get people to plead guilty without getting their right to a fair trial.

People’s fear of angering prosecutors by going to trial is real. The reports shows that defendants who chose to exercise their constitutional rights to go to trial routinely face sentences three times greater than the original plea deals. This is an astounding revelation.

I know the pressure to take a deal and the disatroious consequences of taking my case to trial. In 1985 I refused a plea deal of three years and end up being sentenced to 15 years to life under the mandatory provisions of New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws.

I was duped into delivering an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine for $500 by a bowling buddy. During the criminal proceedings the district attorney’s office discovered I was not a drug dealer but nevertheless, they wanted to secure a conviction.

During the trial the assistant district attorney approached me and asked how old my daughter was. I told him she was seven years old. He told me if I chose to go to trial the next time I would see my daughter was when she was 22, take the plea offer of three years to life because you will never win. I was afraid of being away from my wife and daughter for three years. I refused the offer and a few days later I was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. I could not believe it.

Not taking the plea deal of three years to life was the biggest mistake of my life. Because I refused the offer I was sentenced to more than five times the amount of time I was offered in the plea bargain. During my years of imprisonment I tried to commit suicide, I was stuck with a knife, and I was beat down with a pipe.

But nothing hurt me more than my separation from my daughter, Stephanie. Her child-like innocence gave me the will to live when I wanted to die.

Although I tried to keep a relationship with her, she suffered greatly from my prison sentence. No child should have experienced the horrible conditions she had to go through, such as body searches, long waiting lines and abusive correction officers.

Little by little, her beautiful child-like demeanor disappeared, and was replaced with a sadness and depression generally seen in a much older person. By the time she was 12, she had become psychologically damaged, and so traumatized by the prison experience that she could no longer visit me.

From my relationship with my daughter I learned that prison did not end at the wall that separated me from society. It went far beyond it, reaching loved ones and friends of those incarcerated. When I refused the plea offer my life changed forever.

I commend Human Rights Watch for exposing how prosecutors get drug defendants to accept plea bargains by charging them with extraordinary long sentences under mandatory minimums. It is time to end harsh mandatory minimums that both destroy lives and may a mockery of our “justice” system.

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

Flash!!! 12/4/13/    Papa says. "I mean, look, if you can give a turkey a second chance, why can't you give a non-violent drug offender a second chance?"
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APDw8Cgc3Ro  

 

 

Flash!!!  11/26/13   Papa gets on President Obama's case to grant clemencies and use his pardon power more

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/president-obama-turkey-pardon_b_4345524.html

President Obama, Pardon Both the Turkey and Drug War Prisoners for the Holidays

by Anthony Papa    Manager of Media Relations of the Drug Policy Alliance

Posted: 11/26/2013
 
Tomorrow President Obama will continue the recent Thanksgiving tradition of presidents pardoning a turkey.

The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, a ceremony at the White House, is where the president of the United States pardons a turkey and sets it free instead of slaughtering it and making it someone's Thanksgiving dinner.

As someone who has been called a turkey on more than one occasion, and who was granted executive clemency stemming from a drug conviction, I have found a spiritual connection to the subject of the turkey pardon. In 1985, I was arrested when I got caught up in a drug sting. I delivered four ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, New York. Twenty cops came out of nowhere and I was placed under arrest. I did everything I could do wrong and was sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws on New York State. I was set free in 1997 after serving 12 years.

I support and applaud President Obama's treatment of turkeys. But I have to ask the president: what about the treatment of the more than 100,000 people who are incarcerated in the federal system because of the war on drugs?

Surely some of these non-violent drug offenders deserve treatment equal to a turkey pardon? I would think so. But if you look at Obama's record on the use of executive clemency which includes pardons and commutation of sentences, you would have to say that he has more respect for turkeys than drug war offenders. President Obama has granted only 39 pardons so far, which ranks him at the bottom of the pile in presidents who have exercised this power.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing a speech that Attorney General Eric Holder gave calling for criminal justice reforms which would ease certain drug sentences. It was nice to hear. But knowing how the criminal justice system works, I had my doubts on what effects it would have on prisoners who were serving long drug sentences and who were not eligible for judicial relief under the proposed changes suggested by Holder.

In particular, I pointed out the 5,000 or so prisoners who didn't get judicial relief under the changes Obama signed into law under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. I asked President Obama at that time to use his presidential authority to pardon and, in particular, commute the sentences of people who were charged under the old 100-to-one crack to powder cocaine ratio. It would be a great move by President Obama. With a swipe of his pen, the president could give a chance to those nonviolent drug offenders who are stuck in prison, and help them return to their families.

Many of us are praying that President Obama will show the same compassion he has for the turkey he will pardon this week and use that same compassion for those drug offenders who have fallen through the cracks of drug law reform who are ready to return to society.

 


This piece originally appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance's blog.

 

 

 

Flash!  October 4th, 2013  Tony Papa starts a Petition Urging Eric Holder to allow Michael Douglas to visit his imprisoned son!

 

 

Michael Douglas gets support from Internet petition urging Attorney General to let actor visit incarcerated son Cameron in jail

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 14:00 EST, 2 October 2013 | UPDATED: 14:05 EST, 2 October 2013

He memorably used his Emmy winning speech last month to lament the U.S. prison system for not allowing him to visit his incarcerated son Cameron in jail.

And Michael Douglas has now received support in his quest from non profit organisation the Drug Policy Alliance who have a launched a petition urging Attorney General Eric Holder to change his tough stance on non-violent drug offenders.

The petition, posted by Alliance activist Tony Papa on Change.Org is trying to pressure Holder and Cameron's prison warden John Caraway to allow families like the Douglases to see their loved ones in prison.

Petition: Tony Papa from the Drug Policy Alliance has launched a petition urging the Attorney General to allow Michael Douglas to see his son Cameron in prison

Cameron, the only child of Michael and his first wife Diandra, was convicted in 2010 of selling methamphetamine and possession of heroin.  A year later, his sentence was increased by Judge Richard Berman when he failed a drug test and pleaded guilty to possessing drugs in prison.

The 34-year-old is currently in incarcerated at the Federal Corrections Institute in Cumberland, Maryland.

'Cameron is currently serving nine and a half years of hard time for a nonviolent drug conviction and is being punished because of his drug addiction,' Papa writes in his post.

'District Court Judge Berman whacked Cameron with additional time for what is essentially Cameron's bad drug habit,' he adds.

Imploring: Michael Douglas gave a shout out to his son Cameron in his Emmy speech last month

Michael brought attention to Cameron's plight after winning won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Movie of Miniseries for his role as Liberace in Behind The Candelabra.

 

'A shout-out to my oldest son Cameron, but hopefully I'll be able to see him soon,' he said in his speech.

The 69-year-old actor further explained his comments in a post-awards press conference.

'[Cameron] has spent almost two years in solitary confinement,' Michael said. 'Right now I’ve been told that I can’t see him for two years. It’s been over a year now.

'I'm questioning the system. At first I was certainly disappointed with my son, but I've reached a point now where I'm disappointed with the system.'

Papa, an advocate for Cameron, agrees - telling Radar: 'Every father should be able to see his imprisoned son. At first, Michael blamed his son for the mess he got into, but now, he is questioning the Bureau of Prisons and asking why he is being prevented from visiting his son for two years.

'Prison does not end at the prison wall… It severely affects the family members and loved ones of those who are incarcerated. Michael Douglas is being punished for his son’s drug addiction.'

Papa's post goes on to relay how the Alliance helped Cameron appeal the near-doubling of his sentence as 'excessive and unjust,' presenting a brief which argued that addiction treatment rather than jail time would be more helpful to him.

 

Harsh sentence:  Cameron is still not allowed to have any visitors as part of his punishment, pictured with his father in LA in 2009

'In that brief, experts contended that Cameron’s drug relapse behind bars was not surprising, noting the lack of adequate drug treatment in the nation's prisons and jails, particularly for opioid-dependent persons,' writes Papa.

'They urged corrections officials to remedy this situation as a critical step to breaking the cycle of addiction that affects the great majority of people incarcerated in the U.S.'

Cameron's appeal was denied and he was taken into solitary confinement with 'many privileges taken away, including phone calls and visits with family,' adds Papa, bemoaning the government's policy of 'locking up inmates with drug addictions rather than giving them treatment.'

He continues: 'Hopefully Michael Douglas will be able to visit his son and the issue of punitive punishment such as this will change and individuals with similar circumstances will be provided relief.'

Cameron's mother Diandra has also questioned her son's treatment in prison, claiming to TMZ that he was 'treated like an animal' while in solitary confinement, and that she too wants to visit him.

Diandra told TMZ that when Cameron left solitary he had to stay out the sun because his skin would burn after he had spent so long underground.

She said his hair was also falling out as a result of his poor treatment.

Cameron himself has also spoken out against the policy, calling the system 'outdated' on a blog on the Huffington Post.

'This outdated system pays little, if any, concern to the disease of addiction, and instead punishes it more harshly than many violent crimes,' he wrote. 'And even more exasperating is that many of the people responsible for this tragedy disregard documented medical research and the reality of our country's unsustainable prison overpopulation.

He is due for release in 2018.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2442045/Michael-Douglas-gets-support-Internet-petition-urging-Attorney-General-let-actor-visit-incarcerated-son-Cameron-jail.html#ixzz2gaqyTkwN

 

 

 

FLASH!!   August 30th 2013   :My call to President Obama to commute crack/cocaine sentences

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/serving-15-to-life-under-_b_3806933.html#slide=more314370

 

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing and Potential Pardons by President Obama

Posted: 08/26/2013 4:27 pm

Last week I listened with great interest to a speech Attorney General Eric Holder presented in front of the American Bar Association. Holder passionately spoke about halting the use of laws that have led to mass incarceration, which in turn, has broken the federal prison system. There are over 2.3 million incarcerated with about 500,00 drug offenders. The speech came after an interview with National Public Radio the week before saying that there had been a lot of unintended consequences in the war on drugs which included the decimation of communities of color.

What caught my attention most was his call for major federal sentencing changes, including dropping the use of mandatory minimum sentencing in certain drug cases. I've always had an interest in the subject of mandatory minimum sentencing laws because of the 15-to-Life sentence I had served under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. Even though I was a first time non-violent offender who delivered four ounces of cocaine for the sum of $500 dollars, the judge in my case was forced to impose a life sentence because of mandatory minimums. These laws had the distinction of being the precursor to the current federal mandatory minimums that Holder held responsible for breaking our criminal justice system.

Because of the media's focus on Holder's speech highlighting mandatory minimum sentencing it was a busy week for media coverage. Last Monday, the Associated Press released a video about Attorney General Eric Holder speaking about the proposed reforms and on Tuesday I was invited to appear on CNN's Your Money hosted by Christine Roman. The show was titled "Broken Justice" and was co-hosted by Ashleigh Banfield of CNN's Legal View. The host of the show used my case to point out the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing laws that Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted in his speech.


Columnists Karen McVeigh of the Guardian and Neal Pierce of the Washington Post Writers Group both wrote excellent articles on the subject. In Pierce's column he highlighted my plea to President Obama. He went on to say:

And there's the question of pardons. Anthony Papa, media manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, who was imprisoned 12 years under New York State's Rockefeller drug laws before receiving clemency, says it isn't clear what the administration's new policy will mean for people now behind bars. His proposal: "Obama should use his presidential authority to pardon and, in particular, commute the sentences of people who were charged under the old 100-to-one crack to powder cocaine ratio. Society would be better served by not locking up people for extraordinarily long sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses. It's a waste of tax dollars and human lives."


There are about 5,000 prisoners who did not receive judicial relief under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 which President Obama signed into law because the law was not applied retroactively. The revised law reduced the disparity between the amount of powder and crack cocaine needed to activate criminal penalties from a 100:1 weight ratio to an 18:1 weight ratio and eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. With a swipe of his pen, President Obama could give a chance to those who are stuck in prison and help them return to their families. I pray that he shows some compassion for those who are worthy and ready to return to society. It would be the right thing to do.

This piece originally appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance's blog

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

 

 

 

LA Times 

Letters: Doing more on drug sentencing

August 17, 2013   http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/17/opinion/la-le-0817-saturday-drug-sentencing-20130817 

 

It isn't clear what the administration's new policy on drug sentencing will mean for people currently behind bars.

President Obama should use his authority to commute the sentences of the roughly 5,000 people who were charged under the old 100-to-1 crack-to-powder cocaine ratio who are not eligible for relief.

Society would be better served by not locking up people with extraordinarily long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

I know because I was sentenced to 15-to-life under mandatory sentencing laws. I wound up serving 12 years because I received clemency from the governor of New York. It was a waste of human life and tax dollars that could have been used for needy communities.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer is the media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

Flash!  8/12/13 Major changes in federal drug law sentencing announced by Attorney General Eric Holder

 

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/aug/12/drugs-policy-sentencing-eric-holder

Advocates of drugs-sentencing reform welcome Eric Holder's policy overhaul

Anthony Papa, who spent 12 years in Sing Sing for delivering 4oz of cocaine, says such sentences are 'a waste of human lives'

 Anthony Papa was in debt and desperate for cash when he accepted an offer, from a bowling buddy, to get involved in a drug deal. In exchange for $500, the father-of-one was to deliver an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, New York.

Papa delivered it into the hands of undercover police. Despite being a first-time, non-violent offender with no wider connection to any gangs or cartels, the radio repair man was sentenced to 15 years to life in New York's Sing Sing prison. His buddy, a lynchpin who organised the deal, was given three years to life.

Under Eric Holder's long-awaited overhaul of federal prison policy, unveiled on Monday, offenders like Papa will no longer be subjected to mandatory minimum sentencing, which the attorney general has said is unfair.

It is too late for Papa, who served 12 of his 15 years in state prison before being granted clemency. But as an advocate for state and federal reforms for the Drug Policy Alliance, he welcomed Holder's overhaul. Among the changes Holder announced is new guidance to federal prosecutors to omit listing quantities of drugs in indictments for low-level drug crimes, thus sidestepping the sort of mandatory sentences that led Papa to serve his 12 years.

"Society would be better served by not locking up people for extraordinarily long sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offences" said Papa. "It's a waste of valuable tax dollars and a waste of human lives."

Drug-related offences drive the vast majority of the US's bloated and expensive prison population, a point made by Holder in his speech in San Francisco. Around half of the 200,000 people in federal prisons are locked up for drug offences, and about 60% are serving time under mandatory sentencing provisions, according to The Sentencing Project, a campaign group for reform. Just under half of the 25,000 people incarcerated every year for drug offences are lower-level offenders, such as street-level dealers and couriers.

Mark Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said "thousands" of offenders fell into the category. Mauer described Holder's proposals as a "significant development" which would not only go towards reducing prison populations but would also have an effect on the treatment of drug offenders.

He said: "Since the 'war on drugs' there have been huge developments in drug courts and drug treatment but mandatory sentencing has acted against those. This represents a one way to open that up a bit and increase the potential scope of other options."

Mauer said that incarceration had little impact on the number or scale of drug crimes in the US. "Even more than other offences, prison has very little impact on drug crime overall. If you take someone from the street corner selling drugs, they are immediately replaced."

Holder's proposals are part of a wider debate on incarceration and the war on drugs that has been gaining support across the political divide. Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been advocating change for years, was disappointed that Obama's administration had not acted sooner.

Nadelmann said: "There's no good reason why the Obama administration couldn't have done something like this during his first term – and tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans have suffered unjustly as a result of their delay."

But he said Obama and Holder deserved credit for decisive action. Nadelmann added that while prosecutors cannot legally be required to refrain from enforcing the law, the new guidelines would allow them discretion or to have a "shred of humanity", in order to examine the circumstances of criminals such as drug mules and couriers. He said the new guidelines would also curtail cases in which, because of plea bargaining, "significant drug dealers" may be given a lower sentences than a courier, mule or "a girlfriend whose only job was to open the door".

The national politics of the issue have shifted significantly recently, enabling cross party support for Holder's "bold" proposals, Nadelmann said.

Fuelled by a need to save money on prison costs, several conservative states have sought ways to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders who are incarcerated. Texas and Arkansas, for example, have examined a wave of measures including reducing prison terms, diverting people into treatment programmes and releasing inmates on good behaviour early. Republican governors and senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, have worked to allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing when circumstances merit. Bipartisan bills are being introduced on the issue.

Advocates for reform say that changes that affect sentences for offenders, such as the Fair Sentencing Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010 to address racial disparities in the sentencing laws on cocaine, should be applied retroactively.

 

Holder Wants Changes in Criminal Justice System   August 12, 2013

With the U.S. facing massive prison overflow, Attorney General Eric Holder called Monday for major changes to the criminal justice system that would scale back harsh sentences for certain drug related crimes.

Associated Press Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxPHBu7QqEw  (Papa interviewed)

.

 

 

 

 

Flash!   May 8th is the 40th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws!

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013305100032&nclick_check=1

Online Extra: State drug laws must be improved

May 10, 2013

Anthony Papa

Anthony Papa
Written by
Anthony Papa

In 1973, two years after President Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” New York Governor Rockefeller passed the toughest drug laws in the nation. It was then that the Rockefeller Drug Laws were created, demanding mandatory sentences for people convicted of drug law violations, while removing the Judge’s power to consider each case individually. The Rockefeller Laws made New York’s prisons become a merciless machine, destroying families and lives, and locking up tens of thousands of first-time offenders, many addicted to drugs. Eventually these laws became the template for the federal government’s draconian sentencing laws passed in the 1980s that imprisoned millions of Americans with mandatory minimum sentences.

In 1985, I made the biggest mistake in my life – and it cost me my freedom, my soul, and my humanity. Because I was desperate for cash I was convinced by a bowling teammate to get involved with a drug deal. In exchange for $500, I transported an envelope containing 4 ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mt. Vernon, NY. To my surprise I walked into a police sting operation where 20 undercover cops were waiting for me. I did everything I could do wrong and I was convicted and sentenced to 15 years-to-life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I served 12 years in a maximum security prison until I was granted executive clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1997.

Upon my release, I struggled with my newly found freedom and realized that the freedom I fought so long and hard to win was not what I imagined it to be. The way of life I once knew was gone, along with my friends and support base. I discovered I was quite alone in a new world that had drastically changed. Despite this I could not forget those I left in prison and decided to go on a rescue mission to save them and change the laws that had imprisoned me.

I become an activist and traveled to Albany New York with groups like the Drug Policy Alliance to meet with politicians. After having several conversations with elected officials I soon realized that change would not occur from the top down. Instead I knew that any change that would occur would have to be done from the bottom up - with a street movement that would unite the masses and legitimize our cause. I then co-founded the NY Mothers of the Disappeared with Randy Credico, the director of the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. The group soon became leading advocates for the reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. With a motley crew of crippled and sick family members of those imprisoned under the drug laws, we began to generate tremendous press, press that put a human face to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Soon after, celebrities and politicians like Andrew Cuomo and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons joined the movement. After 30+ years of struggle, some minor reforms were made in 2004 and 2005, and then in 2009 broader reforms were made under Gov. David Paterson.

Yet much more needs to be done. A comprehensive new report – Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy – by The New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance presents an all-inclusive set of wide-ranging recommendations to implement a health-based approach to drug policy. It calls for strong, effective leadership to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity. The report demonstrates how New York’s drug policies remain largely split between two different and often contradictory approaches – criminalization and health – despite the historic 2009 reforms of the notoriously draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, signed May 8, 1973, became the model for the failed “war on drugs” as states around the country adopted New York’s approach, leading the U.S. to incarcerate more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. It is our hope that New York can lead the nation in a new direction that would embrace the true meaning of justice.

Anthony Papa is the manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York.

 

40th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws: A ... - Huffington Post

www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/rockefeller-drug-laws_b_32305...
 
May 7, 2013 – In 1973, two years after President Nixon declared a "war on drugs," New York Governor Rockefeller passed the toughest drug laws in the

 

Wishing an Unhappy 40th Anniversary to the Rockefeller Drug Laws ...

www.alternet.org/.../wishing-unhappy-40th-anniversary-rockefeller-drug...
 
AlterNet / By Anthony Papa. Your comments on ... Wishing an Unhappy 40th Anniversary to the Rockefeller Drug Laws that Cost Me 12 Years of My Life

 

http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2013/05/landmark-conference-40th-anniversary-rockefeller-drug-laws-convening-explores-how-ny-ca 

Press Release  | 05/02/2013

Landmark Conference: At 40th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Convening Explores How NY Can Become National Model by Shifting Drug Policy from a Criminalization-Based to a Health-Based Approach

Groundbreaking Gathering in Buffalo Brings Together Community Groups and Experts in Law Enforcement, Treatment, Prevention and Harm Reduction to Discuss New Approaches

National Experts to Discuss Best Practices From New York and U.S.; International Speakers to Discuss Toronto and Vancouver’s Four Pillars Drug Strategies and Portugal’s Decriminalization Approach

Buffalo, NY: Today marks the start of a major two-day conference in Buffalo to discuss ending the war on drugs and mass incarceration in NY – and establishing truly effective drug policies guided by public health and safety. The conference convenes almost 40 years to the day after Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The laws represented a criminalization-focused “lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” approach to drug policy requiring long, mandatory prison terms for even first-time drug law violations. But the laws never achieved their stated intent, as health and safety outcomes were not substantially improved. Meanwhile the criminalization-based approach led to under-development of our prevention and treatment systems, mass incarceration, and extraordinary racial disparities.
The conference, Leading the Way: Toward a Public Health & Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York, brings together elected officials, law enforcement, treatment providers, prevention experts, healthcare providers, people in recovery, people who currently use drugs, family members of overdose victims, formerly incarcerated people, scholars, activists, and more. Over two days, attendees will discuss developing a new drug policy in New York, and will explore the changing landscape of drug policy in New York and the nation, such as the growing bipartisan opposition to mass incarceration and support for alternatives to incarceration; the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; and the 2012 elections, when Colorado and Washington became the first jurisdictions anywhere in the world to legally regulate marijuana.
 
The conference is informed by a comprehensive new report by The New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance: Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy. In an editorial last week, The New York Times called the report “timely” and said it “provides a detailed blueprint for how the state could remake its drug treatment delivery system and remove public policy obstacles to timely and accessible treatment.” Attendees will discuss the report’s findings and recommendations.
 
New York is in prime position to lead the nation in a new direction. The draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws – signed May 8, 1973 – became the model for the failed “war on drugs” as states around the country adopted New York’s criminalization approach, leading the U.S. to incarcerate more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. New York reformed the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2009, but as outlined in the Blueprint report, New York remains stuck in the “Rockefeller paradigm.” Now, in a historic shift unthinkable just a decade ago, leaders in New York, the White House, and many elected officials from both sides of the aisle agree that drug policies must shift toward a public health approach, reflecting 20 years of evidence and public opinion polls finding that more than three-quarters of Americans believe that the criminalization-focused “war on drugs” has failed.
 
Yet moving to a public health approach has proved to be easier said than done, as both federal and state budgets continue to emphasize enforcement, prosecution and incarceration.
 
Conference speakers – from around New York, the U.S., and the world – will discuss effective drug policies that have been implemented abroad. Speakers from Toronto and Vancouver will discuss how those cities utilize a “Four Pillars” model – prevention, treatment, law enforcement and harm reduction – and will share lessons and insights about municipal efforts to establish more effective drug policies. The Vice President of the Lisbon Dissuasion Commission of the Portugal Ministry of Health will discuss Portugal’s innovative drug policy, implemented in 2001. While drugs remain illegal in Portugal, there is no criminal penalty for possession or use of small amounts of drugs – an approach called “decriminalization.” Instead of  criminalization, the country has pursued a policy of civil administration and service provision, coupling education with expanded treatment options, resulting in reductions in drug use, transmission of blood-borne illness, and drug-related crime.
 
Over two days, and with the Blueprint as a reference guide, conference participants will discuss evidence-based strategies for building a coordinated, health-focused approach to drug policy in New York that addresses prevention, treatment, harm, reduction, public safety, and racial disparities – so that New York can once again lead the nation, this time by implementing more effective drug policies.
 

PAPA in the NY Times!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/opinion/life-sentences-for-low-level-crimes.html

To the Editor:

Your article pointed out that there are 500,000 people in prison or jail for drug crimes. This is a staggering statistic that is compounded to the point of amazement by the fact that most of those serving these draconian sentences are nonviolent.

I speak from the vantage of someone who served a mandatory 15-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller drug laws of New York State for a first-time nonviolent drug offense in 1985.

I wound up serving 12 years of that sentence before Gov. George A. Pataki granted me executive clemency.

The bottom line is that mandatory minimum sentencing laws have proved to be a failure. It’s time that we abolish these laws and instead institute a system that protects society and is cost-efficient and fair for all.

ANTHONY PAPA
Manager of Media Relations
Drug Policy Alliance
New York, Dec. 12, 2012

 

 

FLASH!   11/3/12/ Anthony Papa testifies at Nuke Hearing to save lives of prisoners at Sing Sing.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20121024/NEWS/310240069/Ex-prisoner-testifies-nuke-panel

Ex-prisoner testifies at nuke panel

U.S. judges hear safety worries as part of Indian Pt. relicensing   Oct 24, 2012 


 

 

                                       TARRYTOWN — The tiers of cells and the large, often-broken 

windows of the housing units at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining would provide no protection during a radiological accident at nearby Indian Point, a former inmate testified Tuesday.

“There would be total chaos. The danger element would be elevated not only for other prisoners but also for guards,” said Tony Papa, who served 12 years in Sing Sing on a drug charge before Gov. George Pataki granted him clemency in 1997.

“People’s survival instinct would kick in,” he continued. “Predatory prisoners would try to take advantage, they would try to escape (or) cause a riot.”

Papa spoke before three federal administrative judges who are examining technical, environmental and safety issues related to the relicensing of the nuclear power plant in Buchanan.

The licenses for the two reactors expire next year and in 2015 and Indian Point’s owner, Entergy Nuclear, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 20-year extensions.

Tuesday’s testimony focused on environmental justice matters raised by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and how a radiological emergency at Indian Point might impact the county’s minority communities and those housed in nearby hospitals, jails and other institutions.

Patricia Milligan, an NRC health physicist, told the judges that prisoners in Sing Sing faced no undue danger in terms of radiation exposure. The judges are part of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, an independent arm of the NRC.

“While it is possible that special populations, such as those incarcerated at Sing Sing, could receive radiation doses higher than other populations that are immediately able to self-evacuate, any doses received would be within (federal) dose guidelines,” she said.

Milligan said she has met with high-level state correction officials who are “absolutely confident they can evacuate Sing Sing.”

The state and Riverkeeper have also filed several “contentions” as to why the NRC shouldn’t renew the licenses. They have questioned Entergy’s maintenance of aging plant components and whether the company had correctly estimated evacuation costs.

The relicensing hearing started last week, will continue through Thursday and then break until December.

The NRC will use the judges’ recommendations when deciding whether Indian Point should operate for another 20 years.

Several expert witnesses speaking for Clearwater employed the specter of New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina, when residents were trapped and public order crumbled.

Dr. Erik Larsen, an emergency medicine physician, said the less affluent who don’t own cars might be unable to leave the area following a nuclear accident at the plant. Hospitals, he said, might be short-staffed “because people would be concerned about their families.”

Entergy has said its emergency plans are regularly reviewed and Indian Point has received top NRC safety ratings.

 

FLASH!  1/3/12    Anthony Papa went on a rescue mission to ask Gov. Cuomo to grant clemency for the holiday season for Rockefeller Drug Offenders who are still stuck in prison.  He pitched the story to the media which resulted in massive media coverage of the issue including two articles by the NY Times.  The results of this :

The governor’s advisers are now conducting intensive reviews of requests for pardons or clemency from people serving severe sentences for drug offenses that are no longer punished so harshly -   NY Times / Jim Dwyer Lessons in DNA and Mercy   12/29/11

 

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Power-to-pardon-remains-unused-2431920.php

Power to pardon remains unused

Governor gets requests, but no sign of action as holiday season passes
Times Union
By JIMMY VIELKIND, Capitol bureau  /   December 29, 2011
ALBANY — Christmas has come and gone. The lights of Hanukkah have flickered. The days before the New Year are ticking away. And while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expertly wielded his gubernatorial powers this year, he's on track to end it without trying out one of its most unique tools: the ability to grant pardons.

Governors have traditionally announced pardons around the winter holiday season, dovetailing on its air of joy and charity. Gov. David Paterson, for example, pardoned 24 people on Christmas Eve 2010.

But Cuomo let the holiday pass, and his aides offer no indication that any announcement is in the works. Advocates for judicial reform and immigrants' rights, however, hope the freeze won't be permanent.

"We've been telling them that there are a lot of minor pardons that could have life-changing consequences, and they're looking at how to set that up. They're just not ready to announce that this year," said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Paterson's 2010 pardons focused on immigrants in the country on work permits who couldn't apply for citizenship because they'd been convicted of criminal offenses.

Under a hard line taken by federal immigration officials, the convictions are grounds for deportation proceedings.

He set up a special panel that reviewed over 1,000 cases, and pardoned several dozen people before leaving office.

Many of those files remained in the governor's office after Cuomo — a Democrat like Paterson — took office.

Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said administration lawyers are reviewing hundreds of applications, but offered few details on whether any would result in pardons. The governor has the power to either commute a sentence, which lets a criminal conviction stand while releasing an inmate from prison, or offer executive clemency, expunging an offense from someone's record either during or after their sentence.

"The granting of pardons and clemencies plays a vital role in the administration of fair and equal justice," said Wing in an email. "It is a power that the governor will use practically and methodically to help ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law."

Hong said her organization was pushing Cuomo to set up a system similar to Paterson's. The governor has won praise from her group for speaking out against the federal Secure Communities program, and for establishing a hotline for residents to get government information in languages other than English.

Over the past decade, governors faced pressure to stay the sentences of offenders convicted under Rockefeller-era drug laws that allowed judges to send people to prison for up to life for drug possession.

While the laws were rolled back in 2004 and again in 2009, Tony Papa, an ex-offender pardoned by Gov. George Pataki who now serves as spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, said some offenders are unable to apply for reduced sentences because of "procedural roadblocks."

"Gov. Cuomo, before he was attorney general, stood on the front lines with us trying to reform these laws," said Papa. "When he ran for the governorship for the first time in 2002, he used my case as an example of the injustice. ... There are many people still lingering."

Reach Vielkind at 454-5081 or jvielkind@timesunion.com.

-----------

 
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/nyregion/governor-can-improve-law-and-justice-in-one-stroke.html

Lessons in DNA and Mercy   12/29/11

By
In 2006, during a debate in the race for state attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo criticized his opponent for having failed to give a DNA test to a man who was in prison for a murder that he turned out to have had nothing to do with. A few years before that, Mr. Cuomo spoke at a party for a book written by a man who had spent 12 years in prison for having handled $500 in a drug sting.

When Mr. Cuomo became governor last year, he arrived with as strong a set of credentials in criminal justice as any New York governor since Thomas E. Dewey, who served from 1943 to 1954. He also arrived with knowledge that no governor before him could have had: the results of 20 years of DNA testing that had not only freed innocent people — New York is second or third in the nation in wrongful convictions, depending on how you do the counting — but had also provided an X-ray of the invisible, broken bones of criminal justice.

DNA tests got innocent people out of jail and, just as important, showed how they got there in the first place, exposing the parade of mistaken eyewitnesses and the chorus of false confessions. 

But Mr. Cuomo made no promises about cashing in on the lessons of the DNA era for reforms during his first year, and didn’t. The state was in the red, the health care system was financially decrepit, and his biggest legislative initiative involved marshaling votes for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

He did not lay a glove on a world that he knows well. In addition, it now appears that he will end his first year as chief executive as many other governors and presidents of the last three decades have, by keeping his distance, at least publicly, from the granting of pardons and clemency.

On both fronts, insiders say, that is likely to change. The governor’s advisers are now conducting intensive reviews of requests for pardons or clemency from people serving severe sentences for drug offenses that are no longer punished so harshly, from immigrants who faced deportation over relatively minor crimes in their distant past, and from others who may have been justly convicted but who are serving prison terms that will hollow out their lives, at no benefit to society. For those able to get their cases before the governor’s staff, his power to pardon and grant clemency can be a magical and restorative bullet.

Mr. Cuomo does not intend to let that authority lie dormant, his chief spokesman, Josh Vlasto, said on Thursday. “It is a power that the governor will use practically and methodically to help ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law,” Mr. Vlasto said.

The power to pardon, which is a rare and absolute authority granted to the executive, has fallen into disuse since the early 1980s, the chief federal judge in New York, Dennis Jacobs, said in October in a speech at the New School.

A turkey is granted presidential clemency at Thanksgiving. President Ronald Reagan used the power to pardon a stock car racer with an ancient conviction for moonshine-making. The first President George Bush erased the record of a man convicted of stealing six-packs of beer when he was a teenager. President Bill Clinton doled out a pardon to a wealthy man who had gone on the lam from tax evasion charges. 

In New York, the only pardon George E. Pataki granted during his 12 years in office was to the comedian Lenny Bruce, 37 years after his death, for his conviction on the use of obscenities in his nightclub act.

The frittering away of such a mighty power, Judge Jacobs said, was a wasted opportunity to fix what the court system could not. “What a shame that it should lie neglected or be put to trivial uses when it is the easiest way to improve law and justice decisively and at one stroke,” he said.

A pardon takes care of one person’s problem but gets nowhere near the taproots of error from which injustice grows. For much of the last decade, the Legislature and various governors have been unable to agree on how to apply the lessons of the DNA era, like finding new ways to show suspects to eyewitnesses, and taping all interrogations of people in custody.

Every time there’s a wrongful conviction, the state loses a chance at a “rightful” conviction. The guilty go free. The case that Mr. Cuomo talked about at that debate in 2006 is a prime example. While an innocent man was in prison for a murder that he falsely confessed to, the real criminal was on the street, and killed another young woman.

E-mail: dwyer@nytimes.com

Twitter: @jimdwyernyt

 

-------------

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/28/nyregion/years-end-is-traditional-time-for-pardons-from-the-governor.html

 

December 27, 2011
 

Contemplating Official Mercy: No Small Task

By
As Andrew M. Cuomo comes to the end of his first year as governor, it’s a moment to remember that he has yet to exercise one power that does not require him to argue with Sheldon Silver in the State Assembly, haggle with Dean G. Skelos in the Senate, box with Michael R. Bloomberg in City Hall or fence with the public employee unions.

Mr. Cuomo can grant pardons to people who have been convicted of a state crime, or commute their sentences through an act of clemency. The only negotiations are with his own conscience. But it is “the power nobody wants,” as it was described in the title of a panel discussion on the subject at the New School in October.

So far, Mr. Cuomo has granted no pardons or clemency, and his office would not say if there were plans for any. By custom, governors often announce their decisions at this time of year. His predecessor, David A. Paterson, said that the last weeks of his term were his most gut-wrenching in office because of an avalanche of requests. People who had been in prison but gone on to live productive lives wanted the stains lifted from the official histories of their lives. Others were looking for help before their cases were over.

“There’s a pizza parlor I no longer go into because the owner wanted one,” Mr. Paterson said on Tuesday. “I have a doctor I no longer see because he wanted a pardon for his son in a Medicaid fraud case. The son had been convicted but he hadn’t even been sentenced yet. In another case, a prominent entrepreneur wanted a pardon for an employee who also hadn’t been sentenced yet.”

Mr. Cuomo has received hundreds of requests, but only a small fraction of them meet the requirements to be examined in depth, his spokesman, Josh Vlasto, said on Tuesday. “It’s a methodical and thought-out process,” Mr. Vlasto said. “We have ongoing reviews.”

The power to dispense official mercy was given to New York governors by the State Constitution in 1777, a way to temper excesses in the justice system. A governor may give a pardon or commute a sentence any day of the week, for any reason whatsoever. Or not. As it happens, New York State publishes a list of requirements, but if a governor chooses to ignore them, the decision cannot be overturned by the Legislature or the courts.

The practice of official mercy went into steep decline in the 1980s, in New York and elsewhere. Gov. Hugh L. Carey granted 155 pardons and commutations during his two terms, from 1975 through 1982; his successor, Mario M. Cuomo, who served 12 years, from 1983 through 1994, commuted the sentences of 37 people; in the next 12 years, George E. Pataki commuted the sentences of 32 individuals and granted one pardon, to a dead man, the comedian Lenny Bruce. During Eliot Spitzer’s 13 months in office, he gave one pardon.

Then Mr. Paterson took office.

Articles in The New York Times and elsewhere reported on the cases of people who, because of changes in immigration law and enforcement practices, were suddenly facing deportation for crimes they had committed years earlier. Mr. Paterson recited a few examples from memory: “A woman who committed a minor crime suddenly ends up in indefinite detention, and she has a 5-year-old child,” he said. “A man who would have been a treasurer at CUNY was facing deportation.”

He also heard a plea from advocates on behalf of Judith Clark, who is serving a 75-year sentence as the getaway driver in the armed robbery of a Brinks truck in Rockland County that resulted in the murders of two police officers and a Brinks guard.

Mr. Paterson was candid about his political considerations. Heavily criticized for much of his time as governor, he had burnished his reputation with newspaper editorial boards during his final months by imposing fiscal discipline. “This is still very raw in Rockland, there’s a memorial, and if I do this, I will get tarred and feathered,” Mr. Paterson said.

He set up a panel to review pardons based on immigration hardships, and asked for advice from Mr. Pataki. “He said, for the most part, he avoided it, that there were few cases that warranted it,” Mr. Paterson said. About 1,900 applications came to Mr. Paterson. In all, he pardoned 35 people and commuted the sentences of three.

“My counsel staff and I were completely overwrought,” Mr. Paterson said. “We made a final decision on the last day; one we decided not to do. When I went to the governor’s inauguration on Jan. 1, I breathed a sigh of relief.”

E-mail: dwyer@nytimes.com

-------------------------

12/24/11/

Andrea Sears News Editor of Pacifica Radio's WBAI Evening News interviews Tony Papa about Gov. Cuomo and Clemency and the Rockefeller Drug Laws
http://ping.fm/NbyHb  (listen to show)

 

 

------------------

http://www.capitaltonight.com/2011/12/will-cuomo-make-any-pardons/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPIEpdI8_SA 

Will Cuomo Make Any Pardons?

www.capitaltonight.com Dec 23, 2011 - 8 min video
Will Cuomo Make Any Pardons? ... After 12 years in prison, Papa was granted clemency by Governor ...

One of the powers that the Governor of New York has is the ability to grant clemency or outright pardons to prisoners. Over the years, many people have seen their sentences reduced, most of them victims of the stiff Rockefeller Drug Laws.

One of them was Anthony Papa, who in his book 15 to life wrties that he was offered a chance to make a quick $500 dollars for delivering an envelope, but ended up getting busted as part of a sting operation. It was his first offense. And he ended up getting sentenced to 15 years in Sing Sing prison. After 12 years in prison, Papa was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki. And now Papa is writing to Governor Cuomo to ask him to show leniency in his first year in office.

Tony Papa joined Liz from New York City. he’s the Manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

-----------

 

Will Governor Cuomo Show Compassion This Holiday Season and Grant Clemencies? by Anthony Papa

Posted: 12/21/11 07:50 AM ET
 
 
Every year about this time I write to the governor of New York and ask him to go on a rescue mission and grant clemency to people convicted under the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The holiday season is a traditional time for executives to use their power of clemency or pardons to show mercy to individuals that are imprisoned under unjust laws. These are individuals who have already served enormous amounts of time but are stuck in prison and have no legal remedies to regain their freedom. This year I am making the request to Governor Andrew Cuomo who at the present time has his highest approval rate since in office (68 percent). In the past, Governor Cuomo has worked with me and others to reform these laws so he is someone who knows first-hand about their draconian nature.

I have made this request to several other NY Governors. The first time was to Governor George Pataki while I was rotting away in a 6x9 cell in 1994. I was serving a 15 to life sentence for a first time non-violent drug offense when I delivered an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine for the sum of $500.00. It was the worst mistake I ever made in my life and I paid dearly for it. To my surprise he granted me executive clemency in 1996. When I got out I decided to save the many individuals that I had left behind. I became an activist and dedicated my life to change the laws that wasted valuable tax dollars and have destroyed so many lives.

I lobbied Governor Pataki for years to reform these laws and grant clemency to those who deserved a second chance in life. Pataki was a tough on crime politician but to his credit he managed to give 32 clemencies, with 28 of them to Rock Law offenders. After he left office I made the same request to Governor Elliot Spitzer in 2007 who in response granted zero clemencies.

It was an insult to those many men and women who were rehabilitated and had served many years in prison under the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. This prompted massive criticism from prisoner advocates who argued that his failure to show mercy to worthy prisoners was unacceptable.

His denial to grant any clemencies was counter to a promise Spitzer made during his 2006 campaign to continue to support efforts to reform the Rockefeller Drug laws. Bob Gangi of the Correction Association compared Spitzer to Ebenezer Scrooge before he was visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley. Spitzer's approval ratings sharply declined after this and in 2008 he left office in disgrace.

Governor Spitzer was replaced by Governor David Paterson who as a Senator from Harlem New York understood the ineffectiveness of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. For years he also stood by our side advocating for change of these laws and in 2009 he pushed through historic Rockefeller reforms. While in office he granted 37 clemencies and pardons and followed the trend set by Governor Mario Cuomo who granted 33 and Governor Hugh Carey who granted 155.

I recently sat on a panel discussion at the New School and learned a lot about this issue of governors granting clemencies and pardons to individuals. The former Governor of Maryland Robert L. Ehrlish spoke frankly about this and was disappointed with the lack of use of the power to grant pardons and clemencies. He wrote about this in the NY Times in an op-ed titled "A Broken System, and Too Few Pardons."

He blamed the lack of use of the powers of clemency and pardons on the "Willie Horton syndrome." This refers to the early release of a prisoner who then committed a murder and the case was used against Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts when he ran for president in 1988 against George H. W. Bush. His lost to Bush was blamed on Dukakis's support of a prison furlough program that was responsible for Horton's release. This one bad apple forever ruined the way executives would use the powers of clemency and pardons.

Despite the "Horton syndrome" Gov. Ehrlish granted an amazing 249 pardons and commutations. When interviewed by the Baltimore Sun he said that by granting individuals their freedom he was met with neither moral outrage nor wild cheering. But on a personal level Governor Ehrlish was extremely gratified to hear from those who received clemency from him and had expressed their gratitude for giving them a second chance in life by restoring their freedom and the many civil rights that were taken away. It was this sense of restoration that drove the process for Governor Ehrlish.

Perhaps this sense of restoration might be an example for Governor Cuomo to follow while in office. To be sentenced under unjust laws to a tremendous amount of time is unconscionable. I know because it happened to me. There will be many families praying this holiday season that Governor Cuomo shows his compassion for those who are have fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system and have no alternative means of escaping the living hell they and their families face every day.

 

 

 

 

______________________

Flash!     12/ 16/11/  The Right to vote for all protest at the united nations

 

The Vote used by the NAACP http://www.examiner.com/public-policy-in-cincinnati/standing-for-freedom-with-you-2012-and-beyond

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/the-right-to-vote-for-all_b_1137222.html 

The Right to Vote for All : by Anthony Papa

Posted: 12/ 8/11
 
The right to vote is an important part of being an American citizen. Despite this fact, in 2011 several state legislatures have introduced bills that would make it harder for you to exercise your right to vote. This effort is unprecedented in scope, well-coordinated, and carefully targeted. African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, students, working women, seniors, and immigrants of all colors will be disproportionately affected. What we're facing is the most aggressive attempt to roll back voting rights in over a century.

Today, voter suppression takes many forms, including attacks on early and Sunday voting to make voting harder for working people; photo ID requirements for voting and registration that introduce the first financial barrier to voting since the poll tax; and the same racially motivated ex-felon bans. I personally was affected by this.

When I was released from prison after serving 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, I had no clue about my eligibility to cast a vote. When I went to register to vote I was shocked when they informed me that I had to wait until I was released from parole. I felt the pain of felony disenfranchisement since it seemed I was being further punished for my crime. I saw my Queens neighborhood deteriorating around me but was powerless to do anything about it by casting my vote. I was elated when, after waiting for five years, I got off parole and was able to cast my first vote since being released from prison. I felt then like I was fully welcomed back by society as a citizen.

Millions of people convicted of felonies will be barred from voting in the upcoming presidential election. This is a mind-boggling number of people who will be disenfranchised. The most alarming aspect is that many of them are eligible to vote but don't know it.

In New York State, if you are convicted of a felony, you automatically lose your right to vote. According to the Legal Action Center, your right to vote is restored once you have completed either parole or your maximum sentence. If you are on probation, your right to vote is never taken away. But most ex-felons do not know this and do not vote. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of individuals who incorrectly assume they are banned from voting for life.

You may wonder why prisoners are not notified of this right. I think the problem lies in the voting system itself. In New York it was discovered that one-third of election officials did not know that individuals on probation could vote. To fix this problem, states must better train election officials and eliminate complicated registration procedures and paperwork to make sure criminal defendants are fully informed about their voting rights.

Exercising the right to vote should be an important part of a prisoner's rehabilitation. It's an act that makes one feel whole again following years of losing those rights. If, through voting, individuals can become involved in the political process, they have a much better chance of fully integrating back into society.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, the current president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), says in a letter targeted to voters:

Our nation is in the midst of the most aggressive attempt to roll back voting rights in over a century. This effort is unprecedented, it is coordinated, and it is targeted. As you are aware, this year alone, two-thirds of state legislatures introduced and/or passed laws aimed at suppressing our vote. These attacks on our voting rights undermine the very heart of what the NAACP and our partners have fought for since our founding. For those of us who have worked to restore the voting rights for the formerly incarcerated, this is an all too familiar tactic to further marginalize not only people with criminal records, but entire communities of color, the poor, the disabled and other disadvantaged people across this country. Throughout history, the target has been the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals. A century ago, the target was the voting rights of Black voters and other voters of color. Today, the target is the voting rights of Black voters, Latino voters, Asian American voters, Native American voters, as well as students and young people, women, senior citizens, people with disabilities and immigrants of ALL colors. This year the NAACP will launch a multi-year initiative aimed at raising national awareness of these attacks.

On December 10th, U.N. Human Rights Day, NAACP will lead a coalition of more than 100 ethnic, community and faith organizations in a rally in New York City for voting rights. In solidarity with the New York rally, NAACP units nationwide will encourage communities to mobilize around voting rights, and will organize events across the country in support of voter rights. A march is planned from the office of the Koch brothers -- who are funding many of these anti-voting rights measures -- to a rally at the United Nations headquarters.

Please join me along with the NAACP on Saturday to stand for freedom and protect our right to vote.

Here are the details:

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: assemble 61st St. and Madison Ave., the Koch brothers' NYC office
11:30 a.m.: March from 61st St. and Madison Ave. to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th St. and 2nd Ave.
12:30 p.m.: Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations
For more information go to the NAACP website 

 

 

Flash!  Nov. 15, 20110  The New School had an amazing panel of the issue of pardons and clemency. "Executive clemency is a very important vehicle for those who have fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system because of unjust draconian draw laws that exist in the United States."~ Anthony Papa

 

DPA's Tony Papa at The New School Panel on Pardons: The Power Nobody Wants

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuhO-icR-cw&feature=related

Pardons: The Power Nobody Wants

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at The New School in NYC

The Hon. Dennis Jacobs, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a distinguished panel of experts explore the history and real-world application of the power of pardon at the state and federal level.

Following opening remarks by New School president David E. Van Zandt, Judge Jacobs explains the history of the power, its role in correcting injustice in the application of criminal law, and the way the decline in its use reflects a missed opportunity, lack of imagination, and failure of courage.

Our panel then examines the critical historical, legal, economic, and ethical issues surrounding the pardon power and the implications of its greater or lesser use. Panelists include:

Moderator: Senator Bob Kerrey, President Emeritus, The New School.
Hon. Dennis Jacobs, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Hon. Robert L. Ehrlich, Senior Counsel, King & Spalding; former Governor of Maryland; former Congressman (R-MD), U.S. House of Representatives.
Julie Stewart, President and Founder, Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Margaret Colgate Love, Attorney; former Pardon Attorney, Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.

Anthony Papa, Manager, Media Relations, Drug Policy Alliance; clemency recipient following imprisonment for first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

This is an excerpt of the full 1 hour 28 minute panel discussion which can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqEO5vJhZ3Q

 

 

FLASH!  9/10/11/   Attica's 40th anniversary

 

40 Years After the Attica Prison Uprising: Celebrating the Heroic Courage of Prisoners Who Risked Their Lives for Justice

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet
Posted on September 8, 2011, Printed on September 12, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/152336/40_years_after_the_attica_prison_uprising%3A_celebrating_the_heroic_courage_of_prisoners_who_risked_their_lives_for_justice

 

In September of 1971, one of the bloodiest prison riots in the history of the United States took place at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York. The uprising was brought on by prisoners living in terrible conditions who wanted to fix a broken system of justice.

The prisoners negotiated with state officials and called for improving their living conditions and the implementation of educational programs. But in seeking positive changes for those that lived in the darkness of Attica, they were met with cruel and unusual resistance by their keepers. Soon after their negotiations failed, National Guard troops and state police stormed Attica on orders by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller. On September 13, when the five-day prison rebellion was over, 39 individuals were dead (29 prisoners and 10 civilians).

To many, the uprising at Attica was the start of an American movement that sought to bring to light the horrible conditions of imprisonment and to confront the growing prison-industrial complex. Surprisingly many of the horrid conditions that existed back then still plague the present prison system today as seen by the recent hunger strikes in Georgia and California protesting dehumanizing conditions.

I gained a personal experience of these conditions when I entered the system in 1985 to serve a 15-to-life sentence for a drug crime at Sing Sing Correctional facility. My first stop was the maximum security reception and classification unit at Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York. The guards marched us off the bus and through a massive steel door in the center of a lethal electric fence surrounding the prison compound. Coils of razor wire wrapped and looped through the top of the fence, banishing the thought of escape. We were led through a series of gates and checkpoints and into a building, where we were packed like cattle into room for processing.

Ten prison guards sat behind gray iron desks and summoned us individually to approach. Each prisoner was told to place his bag of belongings on the desk. The guard dumped the contents and examined them. Just about everything was tossed into the garbage. One prisoner complained when a guard chucked his love letters into the trash; when he didn't let up, the guard pulled a pin on his radio and sat back in his chair while the distraught prisoner continued to complain. "You got no right," the prisoner said. "Those letters are from my wife, man! You can't throw them out." He shut up when he saw what was coming through the double-doors; a dozen guards in helmets and body armor, wielding clubs. "Fuckin' goon squad," whispered the guy behind me. "Racist bastards," said another. The complaining prisoner held up his hands in surrender but it was too late. The goon squad went right for him, tackling him to the floor. They beat him down to a bloody pulp and dragged him away. The guard who had summoned the goon squad smirked and paused to look at the rest of us before he called, "Next!"

This Friday, September 9th, a thousand people will gather at historic Riverside Church in Harlem to commemorate the 40th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Attica prison uprising. The organization "Attica is All of Us" will remember the unjust conditions that spurred the Attica uprising. It will also serve as a call to bring attention to the alarming rate of incarceration in the United States, the highest in the world, still with conditions similar to those that brought on the tragedy of Attica riot. Event organizer Sarah Kunstler, whose late father, civil rights attorney William Kunstler served as an observer at Attica, said: "The prison population of the United States has grown exponentially in the 40 years since the Attica rebellion and massacre. At the time of Attica the American prison population was around 300,000 - today it is over 2.4 million and growing."

Speakers will include survivors, scholars and activists, including Cornel West, who invites us to recognize that "this occasion celebrates the heroic courage and sacrificial love of the Attica prisoners in the name of justice."

"Attica is All of Us" will be held on Friday September 9, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Nave of Riverside Church in Harlem. The event is free and open to the public. For more information:  http://atticaisallofus.org/

 

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
 

 

 

 

Flash!   8/20/11/  Oklahoma's life without parole for non -violent drug offenses challenged!

 

http://newsok.com/in-nonviolent-drug-cases-life-without-parole-too-costly/article/3595983

In nonviolent drug cases, life without parole too costly

BY ANTHONY PAPA  (The states biggest paper)
Published: August 20, 2011

State Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, thinks Larry Yarbrough should be free. Yarbrough, a model prisoner, is in his 17th year of a life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. On Wednesday, Johnson successfully spoke on behalf of Yarbrough at an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearing where the board commuted Yarbrough's drug trafficking sentence to 42 years. Now if Gov. Mary Fallin signs off, Yarbrough will be eligible to be released in a year.

Johnson says Yarbrough's case is an excellent example of disproportionate and unfair sentencing. Compared with sentences received by others for similar amounts of the same drugs (an ounce of powder cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes), Yarbrough's life without parole sentence is clearly excessive.

The Legislature's original intent in enacting life without parole was to create an alternative between life imprisonment and the death sentence in capital cases. However, unlike death penalty cases where in order to impose such a sentence the jury is required to find aggravating circumstances, a jury recommending life without parole needs no reason whatsoever. This fact guarantees disproportionate and inherently unfair sentencing.

Life without parole sentences for drug crimes have not resulted in decreased drug trafficking. Instead, they have committed Oklahoma taxpayers to paying $23,000 per year, per person (at present rates) to lock up a growing number of people for life. Taxpayers also are committed to covering prisoners' medical expenses as they age, get sick and die.

These are tough times for state governments as well as most Americans. For these reasons, continuing to incarcerate Yarbrough is poor stewardship of the state's limited resources.

The New York Times pointed out recently that fanned by the financial crisis, a wave of sentencing and parole reforms is gaining force across the United States, reversing a trend of “tough on crime” policies that lasted for decades and drove the nation's incarceration rate to the highest — and most costly — levels in the developed world. While liberals have long complained that harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses like drug possession are unjust, the push to overhaul penal policies has been increasingly embraced by elected officials in some of the most conservative states in the country. And for a different reason: to save money.

Life without parole for drug crimes is a policy we can ill afford, especially since it has done nothing to deter drug trafficking. Hopefully, these facts will result in ending the injustice of life without parole, Together we can demonstrate the power of the people, step up, and help make the right thing happen.

Papa is manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, based in New York.

full version of this piece found in :

CounterPunch Anthony Papa: Life Without Parole in Oklahoma

Huffington Post Anthony Papa: Oklahoma Senator Johnson's Fight to End Life Without  Parole...

Alternet  How 3 Joints and an Ounce of Coke Got an Oklahoma Grandfather Life Without Parole

 

 

 

Flash!   Papa Breaks open nypd lab tech scandal!  after this story was written the ny post published a update of the case (read about it below this Huff Post piece)

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/nypd-mariem-megalla_b_867063.html

 

Where Is Mariem Megalla Now?

 
 
Mariem Megalla is a 24-year veteran forensic technician with the New York Police Department. She was suspended from her job last year when she was caught falsifying drug test results at the NYPD's crime lab in Jamaica, Queens. Because of this, thousands of court cases were thrown into question, prompting Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to call a meeting with representatives of the five district attorneys at the office of NYC's special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

Given the length of her tenure at the NYPD, it was reported that potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of cases would have to be reviewed. In one example, Megalla was accused of labeling a crack pipe positive for cocaine when it actually tested negative because she didn't want to walk to another building to fill out the required paperwork. Megalla's slacking on the job led to a probe by the both the NYPD and the Queens District Attorney's Office.

One year later, a lot of questions remain unanswered about this case. It's not even clear whether Mariem Megalla is back on the job or not. I contacted the NYPD's Public Affairs Office and was told to email my questions to them. No response. I contacted the Queens District Attorney's office and spoke to Helen Peterson who declined to talk about their investigation of the case. I then talked to several reporters who had covered the story and most everyone seemed like they were in the dark about current news of it. Although one reporter told me that he thought Megalla is back on duty full-time.

The public has a right to know the outcome of this investigation. There's a possibility that thousands of people's lives were adversely affected by Megalla's actions, and the absence of any real information after an entire year is suspicious, at best. Especially when you consider the very different outcome of a similar case in nearby Nassau:

Recently, it was pointed out that 3,000 convictions were in question due to possible tainted evidence in the Nassau County crime lab. After a flurry of press coverage, District Attorney Kathleen Rice responded to the discovery in the same way the NYPD did in the Magella case -- by making a public announcement of a meeting with top-level officials to deal with the issue. But that's where the similarity stops. In the Nassau County crime lab case, Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly intervened and appointed State Inspector General Ellen Biben to lead an investigation, which led to the lab's demise. In turn, Rice was compelled to send letters to hundreds of potential defendants which eventually led to many filing motions to overturn their convictions.

But in the Megalla case it seems to be totally the opposite. Recently, I was contacted by Diana Collins, whose son is in NY state prison serving an eight-year sentence for possession of less than one gram of crack. D' Juan Collins was sentenced in 2008 and has been fighting his conviction ever since. He claims to be wrongfully convicted, and has been denied exculpatory evidence by the NYPD that would show Megalla's mishandling of the drugs used to convict him. But far worse for him than his sentence is the fact that he is now in jeopardy of losing parental rights to his four-year-old son Isaiah, who is currently in foster care. My question is how many D' Juan Collinses have been denied evidence that could be used to challenge their convictions?

The NYPD needs to alert the public to the outcome of the Mariem Megalla case and assure that justice has been served.

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

Lab wreck-nician

Last Updated: 10:52 AM, June 27, 2011

Posted: 12:40 AM, June 27, 2011

She's one lucky "lab rat."

NYPD laboratory technician Mariem Megalla made more than 100 mistakes in 50 of her most recent drug-evidence tests, including what appear to be clear examples of records fraud, according to shocking internal police memos, but she has continued to collect her $69,000 salary and remains criminally uncharged.

Most of the documented screw-ups appear to be of little consequence to the outcome of drug cases, simply amounting to galling sloppiness. Decimal points are misplaced; drug names and item numbers are switched; three bags are listed as one bag; a vial crashes to the floor; data sheets go missing from files.

But police memos obtained by The Post from as recently as last month reveal even more substantial errors as an 18-month investigation by cops and the Queens DA unspools and Megalla continues at full salary in a civilian, nonlab job.

"There should be no inaccuracy at a lab. I mean, people's lives and freedom are at stake," complains Manhattan lawyer Darius Wadia, who is representing a Harlem man accused of selling crack cocaine.

In that case, more than 200 milligrams of the drugs Megalla tested have gone missing.

"More than a quarter of the sample disappeared, as if two of the eight crack rocks they charged him [with dealing] have vanished," Wadia said.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholtz said on Friday that she would rule today on whether to dismiss the evidence in the case against Wadia's client, Kasien Adderley, 27.

Megalla's worst errors, according to a massive, ongoing retesting effort dubbed the "Megalla Corrective Action," include:

* Some 30 heroin and marijuana samples Megalla said she tested but, in fact, did not.

In the worst example, Megalla wrote she tested all 31 bags of pot from a '07 bust in Queens, but only tested 13. She also only tested one of eight bags from a Nov. '08 seizure in the Bronx, according to the internal memos. Fortunately for prosecutors, Megalla guessed right each time, retesting showed.

* Some 15 instances of drug-weight disparities, including two Bronx cases where approximately a gram of coke remains unaccounted for and a 2008 Brooklyn case where Megalla was two grams off in weighing a sample that proved to not be a controlled substance.

"We cannot find any reasonable scientific explanation for the loss of the 912 milligrams," Thomas Hickey, manager of the police laboratory's controlled substance analysis section, wrote prosecutors in October regarding an especially grievous case of missing cocaine from one of those Bronx cases.

* Samples of heroin, alprazolam, cocaine, PCP, THC and oxycodone were missed by Megalla entirely as she tested bulk seizures of multiple drugs.

She failed to find the PCP and THC dust on a scale seized by the city-wide Special Narcotics prosecutor, and in one 2009 Staten Island case, she missed a hydrocodeinone pill mingled in a stash of oxycodone pills.

* Drugs were misidentified by name in paperwork. Megalla mislabeled the dust on two drug sifters in a Brooklyn case as cocaine when it was heroin; in another case, she said a sample contained cocaine, heroin and morphine when it contained only cocaine.

For at least six of the 60 defendants mentioned in the memos, Megalla's accuracy will never be known. Those cases involve drug dust on baggies, envelopes, a straw, even a dealer's calculator that was entirely consumed by Megalla's testing, with no residue remaining to be retested.

That includes residual evidence -- purportedly of hydrocodone and Zolpidem -- from the ongoing murder case of Gigi Jordan, the psychotic millionairess charged with giving her autistic, 8-year-old son a fatal overdose of prescription drugs.

It is unclear if any of the alleged mistakes have resulted in the dismissal of charges.

"While accused of taking shortcuts, I'm not aware of any errors being uncovered beyond the shortcuts themselves, which were not acceptable," police spokesman Paul Browne said.

She was suspended for 30 days in May, 2010 when the improprieties first surfaced, but has been back on the payroll as required by state civil service law, Browne said.

Megalla's lawyer, Benjamin Lieberman, insisted, "She never did anything [criminally] wrong. That's evidenced by the DA never bringing back any charges."

laura.italiano@nypost.com


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/lab_wreck_nician_24C1tPlxljqHzasdvDUOIM#ixzz1RStrakdR
 

 

 

 


 

 

 

flash!   6/11/11/ 

 Central Police Detective of Columbia University Drug Bust Arrested: Egg on the Face of Ray Kelly and Bridgett Brennan

Central Police Detective of Columbia University Drug Bust Arrested: Egg on the Face of Ray Kelly and Bridgett Brennan

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet
Posted on June 10, 2011, Printed on June 12, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/151266/central_police_detective_of_columbia_university_drug_bust_arrested%3A_egg_on_the_face_of_ray_kelly_and_bridgett_brennan

 Last week Detective Richard Palase, a NYPD Detective was arrested by federal authorities and charged with conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. Palase was a central figure in  the Columbia University drug bust last year, which special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridgett Brennan and Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly blew up to be a major narcotics arrest.

 

But in reality it was a small time arrest that netted five students for selling drugs on their school campus. In a press release distributed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, headed by Brennan, the bust was dubbed "Operation Ivy League." It was described as the culmination of a five-month police sting where they planted a baby-faced looking undercover cop to purchase drugs from the students.

 

The undercover detective visited Columbia University and went into the student dorms and made 31 buys over a five-month period. Christopher Coles, one of the students, told the NY Daily News that the cops exaggerated the extent of the bust.  Now it seems that Coles might be right and questions are being asked about the case and whether or not the arrest of Det. Palase could affect its outcome.

 

Palase was arrested for allegedly heading up a $6,000-per-day gambling operation in Staten Island. The NYPD veteran of 15 years was suspended by the department after his arrest. Prosecutors have said that the suppliers of the drugs, Miron Sarzynski, 24, Megan Asper, 22, both of the East Village, and Roberto Larages, 30, of Brooklyn, have already pleaded guilty to the charges.  The arrest of Palase might not affect them, but for the Columbia students that is another case.  All five are charged with felonies that are in the early stages of litigation and something like this might be used to strike a deal that would help the defense get a plea bargin.

 

While the "Ivy League" bust generated a wave of media for Brennan and Kelly, the reality is that the headline-seeking bust has blown up in their faces with the arrest of Det. Palase.  Now let's see what happens to the students who were arrested and whose lives were ruined because of the overzealous police policies.

 

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

 

 

Flash!   4/13/11/   Gov. Cuomo Shutting down the gulags!  Buffalo news!

 

http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/from-our-readers/another-voice/article391514.ece

 

Anthony Papa: Cuomo making a difference with facility closures

 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was successful during budget negotiations in finding more ways to reduce economic waste. His plan to revamp New York State’s juvenile system by reducing the capacity of juvenile centers by 30 percent became a reality when he pushed it through, along with the budget.

But besides the savings associated with closing these facilities, there is another reason they must be shut down. It’s because of their draconian nature, unleashed upon young people. Several years ago, I went to speak to young prisoners in a creative writing class at Spofford Juvenile Center. Spofford was the focus of criticism and controversy for many years. For a variety of reasons, it became known as a place that exacerbated the problems of juvenile delinquents.

When I arrived at Spofford, it reminded me of a miniature Sing Sing Prison where I spent 12 years for a nonviolent drug crime. I was not prepared for what I was about to see. There, sitting in the audience, were about 50 boys and girls, 10 to 15 years old, dressed in their prison uniforms.

In front of me sat a Latino boy who appeared about 8 years old. I found out later he was 12 and was doing time for assault. I tried to keep my composure, even though I was in a state of shock. I found out that most of the children had first-to third-grade reading levels, almost the same as grown prisoners in the system I was in. The little kid in the front row was amazed and asked if I did 12 straight years. I said yes, and then he dropped a bomb on me. “Did you ever get raped in there?”

All the kids in the room grew quiet in anticipation of my answer, sitting on the edge of their seats. I told them that someone had tried but didn’t succeed.

They continued to ask me many questions about my life in prison. I guess they were interested because many of them would eventually go to prison when they became old enough. For some of them, cycling in and out of jails would become a way of life. It was, sadly, a routine implanted deep within their souls at an early age.

While talking, I could not help but think I was standing in front of the future residents of maximum prisons like the one I languished in. Faces on kids in prison don’t tell a story like faces on adults in prison. Back in Sing Sing you could look at imprisoned men and their faces told vivid tales. These kids looked so innocent, so needful for love and understanding. I prayed that I had made some sort of connection that would prevent just one of them walking the road I had taken. I left Spofford a different person. The experience had secured my need to confront my demons head-on and to make a difference, not only in my life but the life of others.

Cuomo is making a difference by revamping the state juvenile system and saving valuable tax dollars by shutting down troubled facilities. He is on track to make New York State great again.

Anthony Papa is the author of “15 to Life” and the manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

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FLASH!  3/11/2011 ROCKEFELLER REFORMER RETIRED SUPREME COURT JUSTICE JERRY MARKS HAS PASSED ON

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/judge-jerry-marks_b_834686.html

AlterNet / By Anthony Papa

 

The Passing of a Drug Reform Hero: Retired Judge Jerome Marks

Marks devoted his life to change NY's draconian Rockefeller drug laws and helped secure clemency for prisoners rotting away in prison for their roles in minor drug crimes.
March 11, 2011  |  
 

There are heroes and then there are heroes.  My good friend Judge Jerry Marks, a former New York Supreme Court Justice, was a hero’s hero. On March 9, he died at age 95. Judge Marks had a long and distinguished career as a New York elected official and jurist. He served as state representative for six years beginning in 1963, and later as a Supreme Court Justice until he retired in 1992. In his retirement, Marks devoted his life to change New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws and helped secure clemency for prisoners rotting away in prison for their roles in minor drug crimes.

I knew Judge Marks from my work as a Rockefeller Drug law activist and the tireless work he did to help Rock Law offenders receive their freedom.  Both as a friend and a mentor, Judge Marks influenced me to follow his path to become a freedom fighter and to fight for justice for the marginalized and disenfranchised.

In 1999, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote a beautiful piece titled “Angela’s Champion.” One of the cases that caught Justice Marks's attention in The New York Law Journal was that of Angela Thompson, who was arrested in 1988 at age 17 for selling two ounces of cocaine to an undercover cop. She had no previous record and was acting at the direction of her uncle and legal guardian, who was a drug dealer. Nevertheless, under the strict terms of the Rockefeller drug laws, Ms. Thompson was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.  When Judge Marks read about the case he knew it was a case of injustice and immediately began the process of successfully launching a campaign to acquire executive clemency for Angela from former New York Gov. George Pataki.

His close friends called him “The Judge.”  He had a quick wit, even in his late years.  He was also a poet and from time to time, especially in front of an audience; use to love to recite his often political laced poetry.  Political comedian, Randy Credico, who recently ran against Sen. Charles Schumer, and I were honored to have dinner with The Judge every Friday night for years.  We often discussed the concept of justice over a martini and he schooled us well. Credico, in remembering The Judge told me, “Judge Marks used his power to save rather than destroy lives and was the embodiment of the word justice. He was a servant and not the master of concept of justice.  Unlike the men and women who wear robes who hypocritically pass judgment of the poor, the disaffected and the hopeless in the current base, corrupt and Kafkaesque world of criminal justice. Judge Marks served God's natural law rather than man's artificial law”.

 Terrance Stevens’ case was another that Judge Marks took on. The Judge helped Stevens, who at the time of his arrest was paralyzed from muscular dystrophy, secure clemency from Gov. Pataki.  But being confined to a wheel chair did not stop the State of New York from sentencing him to 15 years to life. The judge in Stevens’ case did not want to sentence him under the mandatory provisions of the law but he had no choice. While serving his sentence at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, an article appeared in the NY Times detailing Stevens’ plight.  Judge Marks wrote him and a friendship developed, leading Marks to champion his cause.

 Judge Jerry Marks had a great impact, not only on the people he helped but also the hundreds of lives that were saved through the Rockefeller reforms he advocated for. He is gone but his good deeds as a procurer of justice will let his spirit live on forever.

Judge Marks was the loving husband of Julie and the devoted father of Gail and the late Lorna and dear father-in-law of Neil and Joseph and cherished grandfather of Kyle, Kane and Casey. Funeral services will be held at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Avenue (81st St. NYC) on 3/13/11/ at 3:30pm.

 

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

 

 

Flash!   2/17/11/  Nassau county DA rice might have to retry thousands of rock law cases!

Anthony Papa
Anthony Papa   Huffington Post  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/nassau-county-da-rices-ni_b_824629.html
Posted: February 17, 2011 02:52 PM
 

Tainted Evidence from Nassau County Crime Lab May Be Nightmare for DA Rice

Officials recently shut down part of the Nassau County Crime Lab because it was discovered that a half dozen drug cases had been subjected to incorrect analyses. District Attorney Kathleen Rice might be compelled by law to retest all drug cases, including sales and possession, dating back from 2007. The number of cases is startling. It is estimated that 4,000 drug convictions would have to be reviewed. DA Rice has called on an outside agency.

Experts say that it is very hard or impossible to prosecute cases that involve the dealing and possession of drugs when an incorrect analysis is conducted. Attorneys for defendants say that innocent people could have been jailed because of this. William Gibney, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society who was instrumental in reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, said, "These convictions have a serious problem."

DA Rice said her office is prepared to give information about cases affected to defense attorneys but it will be up to defendants and their lawyers to request re-testing. But when I asked Roland Acevedo, a practicing criminal defense attorney based in NYC, he told me that "a prosecutor has a responsibility to do the right thing. The DA's office should take the steps to notify all potential defendants or their counsel who may be impacted by the discovery of this incident."

In an appearance on Good Day New York on Wednesday, DA Rice admitted that it's possible that an individual currently in jail may not belong there due to problems in the drug testing lab. "We believe there may be errors in the quantitative analysis. A lot of drugs are cut with other substances," said Rice.

According to news sources, the lab troubles were known but unreported. The problems started back in December of 2010 when the Mineola crime lab at police headquarters was placed on probation. A state forensic oversight agency found 15 serious failures to comply with storing and testing procedures.

The Nassau County DA has said that that only 16 defense motions seeking judicial reviews or reopening of drug cases have been filed. But this is understating the magnitude of the problem. If the crime lab was tainted for dozens, the scandal is likely much larger than just the sixteen cases identified so far. Just last year, the crime lab in San Francisco was shut down because of evidence tampering and theft of drugs from the lab. The scandal undermined public trust in both the police and the office of the prosecutor.

Defense attorneys believe that this is just the beginning and the discovery of many cases will occur that could in theory lead to procuring new trials for a majority of those convicted by the tainted evidence. New trials are a very costly procedure, especially at a time when Nassau County's economic health is so bad the state has seized control of the county's finances.

DA Rice recently ran for Gov. Cuomo's former position as state Attorney General, and in appearance after appearance she strongly defended her support of the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms. What will happen if hundreds or thousands of people are found to be wrongfully convicted because of tainted evidence? Will DA Rice pursue justice for dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who may be wrongfully incarcerated? Can Nassau County afford retrials? And can New York afford to allow people wrongfully convicted to remain incarcerated? Stay tuned.

 

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 
 

 

 

fLASH!  1/3/11  iNTERVIEW WITH  lAURA fLANDERS ON grit tv ABOUT THE SCOTT SISTERS


 

 Freeing the Scott Sisters: Clemency and Race   http://www.blip.tv/FILE/4587955  (12 MINUTES)

           Body Parts for Freedom                               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNgTV_97MT8  (1 MINUTE)

The price of freedom from an overly harsh sentence in Mississippi? Apparently, one kidney. That's the promise Mississsippi governor Haley Barbour extracted from Gladys Scott--that she would donate a kidney to her sister Jamie in order for both of them to have their sentences commuted. The sisters had served nearly 17 years in prison for an armed robbery worth $11, and a prolonged grassroots effort finally paid off in achieving their freedom--though it may have more to do with Barbour's attempt at making up for his recent approving comments about the White Citizens' Councils. Joining us to discuss are Anthony Papa, author of 15 to Life and manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, and from Mississippi, Jaribu Hill, executive director of the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights.

 

Flash!   papa goes on a rescue mission to save the scott sisters! 

Posted: December 30, 2010
 

Scott Sisters Freed! Gov. Barbour Wants a Kidney for their Freedom

At long last the Scott sisters will be free! Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour in a totally bizarre act of compassion, based on public pressure, used his commutation powers to grant the sisters their freedom.

Governor Haley Barbour suspended the life sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott, two African-American sisters who had served 16 years in prison for taking part in an $11 armed robbery. The women have always maintained their innocence. For many years civil rights advocates have called for the release the sisters. The case was brought to my attention a few years ago by Nancy Lockart, who spearheaded the campaign to free the Scott sisters.

Although I give thanks to the Governor for this act I have to question the stipulation that in order for Jamie Scott to be free she must donate a kidney to her ailing sister. An estimation was made that determined that dialysis treatments would cost the state of Mississippi $200,000 a year which did not include other treatments. If the operation could not be performed because of medical reasons they would revisit Jamie's stipulation but she would not go back to prison. In a radio interview Barbour described the suspension of sentences as the equivalent of parole. Any violation of the law could therefore land them back in prison.

So, in my view the act of compassion turns out to be a cost efficient way of ridding Mississippi with an astronomical medical bill. Barbour's twisted view of compassion and moral sleight of hand should not come as a surprise. Recently Barbour found himself in hot water after his attempt to revise the shameful legacy of the segregationist, Council of Conservative Citizens, originally called, White Citizen's Councils.


Medical ethicists say suspending a prison sentence on the condition that one sister give the other a kidney is a "quid pro quo" and threatens the ethical underpinnings of living donation laws. So in reality Gov. Barbour might have broken the law.

Gov. Barbour, who by the way aspires to run for President of the United States confirmed my thoughts by saying "The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society, Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi."

Bob Herbert of the New York Times recently wrote about the case of the Scott Sisters in a piece titled "'So Utterly Inhumane." He said, "This is Mississippi we're talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages." I agree one hundred percent. instead of giving the Scott Sisters their freedom through a true compassionate act of clemency, Governor Barbour instead used the barbaric stipulation that freedom in this case is the cost of a kidney.

I wish the Scott Sisters the best in their regaining their freedom and hope they lead fruitful and productive lives. And I pray that Governor Barbour does not use the freedom for organs tradeoff anymore in the future to save the state of Mississippi tax dollars.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 to Life and the Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance

 

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

----------

Flash!   12/30/10  Tony Newman on Tony Papa!

Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-newman/reading-charlottes-web-as_b_802717.html

 

Reading Charlotte's Web as a Activist

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my mom as she read Charlotte's Web to me and my sister. Thinking back on the book, I don't remember all of the details, but I do remember that Charlotte (the spider) was helping save her friend Wilbur (the pig) from being killed. I remembered there was a mischievous rat named Templeton that I thought was cool. I also remember me and my sister crying as my mom read us the end of the book.

I now have a four-year-old girl named Eva and was nostalgic and excited to introduce her to Charlotte's Web.

While sitting on the couch with Eva, watching the movie Charlotte's Web 35 years after reading the book, I realized that in addition to being a great storyteller, the author E.B. White was also a visionary and an activist. Watching the movie as an activist who does media work for the Drug Policy Alliance, I now have a whole new lens to look at Charlotte and her strategy to save her dear friend Wilbur.

Wilbur is the cute little pig who finds out from his fellow farm animals that he is going to be killed and eaten, because that is what happens to pigs. Wilbur can't believe that they are going to kill him. Wilbur turns to the wise spider Charlotte and asks if it is true. Charlotte promises Wilbur that she will protect him and that he won't be killed.

Wow! Hearing this story as a parent, I now see that this is a pretty intense, scary story! I have to admit that realizing that Wilbur is going to be killed because we eat bacon is kinda of a wake-up call that gets me thinking...

Anyways, how is Charlotte going to protect and save her friend? Charlotte ends up spinning a web that says "Some Pig". The family who owns the farm is blown away by the "message" in the web and calls the neighbors. Soon the town is buzzing. After a couple of months the news wears off and Charlotte again spins a web that says "Terrific". The family calls the local newspaper. The next thing there is a photo of Wilbur under the "Terrific" web on the front page of the paper. The crowds come, the family decides Wilbur is special and Wilbur is saved.

Charlotte (and E.B. White) realized that the only way to save Wilbur's life was to make people care about Wilbur. If someone is nameless, we can kill them, stuff them in a jail cell or do other terrible things to them. If we hear someone's story, hear about their dreams, their histories, their families, it moves us and we care.

While watching Charlotte's Web, I couldn't help but think of my friend and colleague Anthony Papa. Anthony Papa is a New Yorker who was sentenced to 15 years for a first time, non-violent drug offense. Papa's life was ruined when a "friend" convinced him to pass an envelope of 4 ounces of cocaine for which he was to make $500.

While in prison Papa found his passion for art and became a painter. Papa's greatest piece is a haunting self-portrait of himself looking into a mirror. You look into his eyes and feel the agony and despair from a man who realizes he is going to spend the best years of his life in a cage. Papa's self-portrait ends up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa (like Charlotte) realizes that the way he is going to free himself is by telling his story and having people see more than just a number.

Papa sits at his typewriter, writes his story and sends it into the local Westchester Journal. Papa then uses this humanizing piece to get other stories and before long there is a major feature in The New York Times. The story builds and builds until Governor Pataki grants him clemency. After spending 12 years in jail, Papa was literally able to paint his way to freedom.

That is only the first half of the inspiring story. When most people get out of jail, they want to put the nightmare behind them and never want think about jail again. Instead, Papa ends up starting a group with activist, comedian Randy Credico called Mothers of the New York Disappeared. They understood (like Charlotte) that to change the way New Yorkers looked at people behind bars, people had to see a whole picture of these people, not only their jail numbers. They organized families of people behind bars. They would organize vigils and actions with family members holding up photos of their loved ones. While the "nameless" were considered drug dealers, they became real people when their families told their stories. These weren't "kingpins" or queenpins"; these were moms and dads, brothers and sisters, who loved their kids and families and were rotting away in jail because they had a substance abuse problem or were desperate to make money and because New York had draconian mandatory minimum sentences under the Rockefeller drug laws.

After years of sharing people's stories, generating moving TV segments and feature stories, New Yorkers changed the way they looked at people behind bars for drug-related offenses. Watching a personal piece about a mom being locked up for 15 years, away from her family, because of a mistake she made or because she has a drug problem moved hearts more than any statistics or policy papers. In 2008, after 35 years, the inhumane, ineffective and racist drug laws were finally reformed.

There is a picture in my office of Anthony Papa giving Governor Paterson a hug at the Rockefeller Reform bill signing. It makes me emotional to think about Anthony Papa's story. Papa spent 12 years in a cage because of one mistake and because of the way our society treats people who use drugs. He lost his family and freedom. He was able to regain his freedom through his art, activism and brains. He then used his freedom to help free some of the people he left behind.

I am moved by Anthony Papa. I think E.B. White would be moved by Anthony Papa's story too.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)

 

Follow Tony Newman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TonyNewmanDPA

 

 

 


Flash!  BRIDGETT BRENNAN SPECIAL NARCOTIC PROSECUTOR MAKES A MICKEY MOUSE BUST!

HUFFINGTON POST

By Anthony Papa

Posted: December 9, 2010

Bridget Brennan Drug Bust: Columbia Students, Not Colombian Kingpins

On Tuesday five students were arrested for allegedly selling drugs at Columbia University. In a press release distributed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, headed by Bridgette Brennan, the bust was dubbed "Operation Ivy League." It was described as the culmination of a five-month police sting where they planted a baby-faced looking undercover cop to purchase drugs from the students.

This bust immediately brought back memories to me of a similar drug bust in 2004 involving kids in Berkshire County in Massachusetts. At that time another baby face detective, employed by the Drug Task Force, was assigned the duty of going undercover to buy drugs from kids who hung out in a parking lot. Merchants had complained to police about the kids. For months the undercover cop hung out with the kids, even allegedly drinking with them, while purchasing drugs. The undercover cop even talked about how he just lost his girlfriend to get the kids to feel sorry for him. This resulted in the arrest of 19 kids. One of them, 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence, received two years for the sale of one joint. Mitchell was set to graduate from high school that spring. Instead, he watched his fellow classmates graduate from his prison cell.

So let me get this straight--the baby-face detective went to Columbia University and into the student dorms and made 31 buys over a five-month period that got a small amount of assorted drugs, including pot and a handful of pills. Two of the students claim that they sold the drugs to pay for their tuition. Another student, Christopher Coles, told the NY Daily News that the cops are exaggerating. And why wouldn't they? They always do.

I remember when I got arrested for a drug sale back in 1985. One Westchester newspaper headline screamed "Biggest Bust in Mt. Vernon History." This was used by the prosecutor to try and blow up my case and convince the judge I was a kingpin. But I wasn't. I was a small fry who made a mistake, and because of the draconian nature of the drug laws, I was sentenced to 15 years to life for a first time non-violent sale of four ounces of cocaine. My part of the take was $500 for delivering the envelope of coke to undercover cops in a sting operation. My life was ruined; I lost my family and everything I had in life.

While the "Ivy League" bust is generating a wave of press and Bridgette Brennan is loving her 15 minutes of fame on national TV, the reality is that these busts are all hype and PR and will do nothing to stop drug use on our campuses or in the city at large.

So I ask Brennan to remember any youthful discretion she might have made when she was young. The five students arrested have their entire lives in front of them. Please don't let one youthful mistake ruin their lives forever. After all, we are talking about Columbia students, not Colombia kingpins.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 to Life and the Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

 

 

Flash!   Interview with Initative Radio!

 

LISTEN HERE:  http://www.archive.org/details/IR-09-51    (audio)

 

ANTHONY PAPA is an artist, writer, noted advocate against the War on Drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. His opinion pieces about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country; he's a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues and he is currently a communications specialist for Drug Policy Alliance in New York City.

In the early 2Ks there was a great deal of mainstream media attention and celebrity participation from the likes of Sting, George Soros and Russell Simmons in the Drug Policy Alliance's campaign to repeal the outdated Rockefeller Drug Laws, which subjected first-time, non-violent drug offenders to lengthy or even lifetime prison sentences. In spite of the lull in media buzz around the issue these days, advocates like Anthony Papa remain vigilant in their commitment to repeal Rockefeller.

On today's show Anthony shares his personal experience serving twelve years at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York, for carrying a small amount of narcotics and how discovering his artistic talent for painting while in lockup eventually led him to freedom and a life of great purpose.


http://www.archive.org/details/IR-09-51

If all the radio stations are following the syndication schedule to a T, the program should broadcast as follows:
 
Sunday WEOS (Geneva, NY) 6-7 PM
Monday WXOJ (N. Hampton, MA) 7-8 AM
Monday WYAP (Clay, WV) flex time check local listing
Tuesday WRFN (Nashville, TN) 3-4 PM Central Time
Tuesday WYAP (Clay, WV) flex time check local listing (encore broadcast)
Wednesday WSIA (Staten Island, NY) 10-11 AM
Wednesday WUOW (Oneonta, NY) 10-11 AM
 

 
All the best!
Angela
Initiative Radio with Angela McKenzie
Food for the Mind & Music for the Soul
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Initiative-Radio-with-Angela-McKenzie/106581202712373

 

---------------------

 

FLASh!  July 16, 2010 :  Social Activist rev. bill webber passes on  (May 2, 1920 – July 10, 2010)

 

The Passing of My Spiritual Father Social Activist Rev. Bill Webber

(this piece also appeared in CounterPunch  http://counterpunch.org/papa07152010.html and the Huffington Post  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/remembering-rev-bill-webb_b_644479.html

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet
Posted on July 14, 2010 , Printed on July 14, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147542/

 

In 1985 I was sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. I struggled to survive in the maximum security hell hole, Sing Sing, and did many things I was not proud of to stay alive. Being in prison for many years had drained me spiritually and emotionally. There were times when the only emotion I was aware of was a quiet, smoldering rage. Because of the barriers I'd built to survive, I'd become desensitized, and I knew it. There was still a part of me that could see myself from the outside in, and what I saw I didn't like: a callous, bitter individual consumed with the injustices of the world. I knew that I needed to heal if I ever wanted to interact normally with people upon release. I had some insight into human behavior because of the bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science I'd earned from Mercy College in 1993. The problem was, the program was over and I had to serve an additional 7 years.

The walls of negativity were beginning to close in on me again when a friend told me about a unique program he'd recently joined known as the New York Theological Seminary, a one-year, 42-credit program that afforded a select group of Sing Sing prisoners the opportunity to earn a Masters of Professional Studies in Ministry. Opened in Sing Sing in 1983, the New York Theological Seminary was the only program of its kind in the country, a graduate-level religious studies program that required a four-year degree from an accredited university to join. The program demanded intense academic scholarship and a commitment to personal growth. Each year, hundreds of prisoners applied but only fifteen were accepted. I was fortunate to be chosen by Dr. George "Bill" Webber, the longstanding director of the program that was a fearless champion of prisoners' rights. Under his leadership, the seminary program provided theological education to prisoners at Sing Sing.

The program has graduated hundreds of men, many of whom are now social workers, pastors, prison reform advocates and educators. Few have ever returned to prison. Of those serving life sentences, many have devoted their lives to teaching and ministry in prison. When state funding for College programs ended, Dr. Webber organized Rising Hope, a program which provides college level education to inmates who have received their GED.

Rev. Webber brought together men of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds to this program. A recurrent theme was that of "koinonia," or authentic community. Koinonia encompasses the belief that we must reject the differences between us to create a society where class distinction is nonexistent and the poisons of racism, sexism and nationalism disappear. He taught me that the core of the seminary teachings was based on liberation theology, rooted in "praxis," or action as an essential ingredient in all theological method. Its hermeneutical approach argues that we cannot begin to understand, criticize, or verify the meaning of scripture or tradition unless we are approaching it from the actual practice of liberation, from concrete involvement in trying to make the world better.

For the first few months of the program, I struggled to find a foothold. I considered dropping out, but Bill Webber urged me to persevere. He suggested that I sharpen my skills as an observer of human behavior because in learning how to deal with others, I would gain mastery over myself. I would learn to understand my emotions, he said, and to feel again. In every confrontation I faced, whether with a prisoner, a correction officer or an outsider, I tried to apply what I was learning in the seminary to gain insight into my fellow man and the world around me. For the first time in years, I felt empathy. Bill had successfully taught me how to be a human being once again. In 1997 I received executive clemency from Governor George Pataki. Upon my release I became an activist and have fought endlessly for reform of draconian drug laws that put hundreds of thousands of non-violent individuals in prison for many years.

In 2004, the New York Theological Seminary established the George W. Webber Chair in Urban Ministry in his honor. On May 19, 2000, he received the Union Medal from Union Theological Seminary. The award included these words: "George Webber, your passion for faith-based justice has helped shape the perspective of several generations of Protestant clergy engaged in urban ministry. Your imaginative grasp of the problems that confront an embattled urban church in an expanding and often violent city has given new meaning to the concept of Christian mission."

Bill Webber, a spiritual father to many men behind and beyond the walls, will be surely missed. Memorial services are tentatively planned in Sorrento , Maine in August and in New York City in October.

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/147542/

 

 

FLASH!   June 28, 2010 - Special Narcotics Prosecutor Tries TO ROLL BACK ROCKFELLER REFORMS ANYWAY SHE CAN

 

Dealers getting out of jail saying they're addicts under revamped Rockefeller drug laws: prosecutor

BY Patrice O'Shaughnessy
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, June 27th 2010, 4:00 AM

Special Prosecutor Bridget Brennan says dealers sell 'cocaine and heroin, but say they are 'addicted.''

·                                

The revamped Rockefeller drug laws have let hardened drug dealers escape jail by claiming they're marijuana addicts, the city's top drug prosecutor says.

The goal was to help addicts who sold drugs or committed petty crimes to support their habits, but Special Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said dealers with multiple convictions for non-violent offenses are taking advantage of the reforms.

A Bloods member with two felony drug convictions was charged last October with overseeing a cocaine operation in a Brooklyn housing project. Instead of prison he's in a drug treatment program for marijuana abuse, after years of denying he ever used drugs.

A couple arrested for major cocaine dealing was recorded in a phone call discussing smoking pot to buttress their claim of marijuana addiction.

"If they do wanna be dumb and do offer you a program, you urine need to be dirty," the man says to his wife in the call from Rikers Island. "What they don't realize that they revised, revised Rockefeller drug law, that's why therefore selling drugs is almost legal."

Brennan said her office fought treatment for people who were "not addicts, but businessmen drug dealers, major managers, gang members ...

"It's sending the wrong message, not only to the individual defendant who thinks he may be able to game the system, but to the community at large."

Drug law reform advocates say Brennan is using a few examples to make the program look bad.

"She's tooth-and-nail against the Rockefeller laws being changed," said Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance. "She is taking one case and blowing it up ...to affect thousands of other people who should get treatment instead of jail."

"Special Narcotics still measures success by the number of people they put in jail rather than effectiveness in reducing crime," said William Gibney of the Legal Aid Society.

Last year, the state repealed most of its mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses imposed in the 1970s under the tough Rockefeller laws.

That allowed the resentencing or release of some prisoners serving exceptionally long sentences, and expanding treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

Judicial diversion, as it is called, allows a judge to dismiss a case against a drug defendant as long as the offender pleads guilty and completes treatment.

Brennan said 217 defendants applied for judicial diversion since the law took effect Oct. 7.

Of those, 158 were referred to a judge, and her office objected to 90 of them. Twenty-seven were granted diversion anyway.

Almost half the people who asked for judicial diversion claimed to be marijuana abusers.

"They are selling cocaine and heroin, but say they are 'addicted' to marijuana," Brennan said.

Nestor Ferreiro, chief of the Bronx district attorney's narcotics bureau, said "some people are trying to take advantage of the law." But, he added, "the judges and the diversion staff are pretty good at catching it."

In Queens, 11 people sought diversion. Prosecutors objected successfully to eight of them, a spokeswoman said. The majority claimed to be pot addicts.

Police sources said the Bloods gang member in the Brooklyn case was arrested with 49 others in Operation Tidal Wave, a three-month probe launched after some gang-related shootings near the Coney Island Houses.

A cop involved in the investigation was shocked the man was allowed to go to treatment.

"He was a manager on the street," the officer said. "If you wanted to purchase narcotics you had to go through him."

Brennan, who said she wanted the man to get at least two years in jail, doesn't blame the judges, saying they are dealing with "a very vague statute."

Although the couple recorded in the phone call were ruled ineligible for diversion, she called the conversation "troubling."

"The assumption was all you do is smoke weed and get a program," she said. "It shows people on the street know how the law changed."

poshaughnessy@nydailynews.com


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/06/27/2010-06-27_smoke_pot_to_get_out_of_jail_prosecutor_sez_fiends_wrangle_treatment_angle_in_ne.html#ixzz0sA5qe6iU

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FLASH!  JUNE 21, 2010 - Nassau County  DA Kathleen Rice IS NOT A GOOD CHOICE FOR NYS ATTORNEY GENERAL

June 14, 2010 11:40 AM 7 Comments

Drug Policy Alliance, Lawmakers, Go After Kathleen Rice On Rockefeller Drug Laws »

By Celeste Katz

Nassau DA and state Attorney General hopeful Kathleen Rice is taking more heat over her past views on the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, a subject she's tangled on with rival fellow Democrat Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman and Rice traded barbs on the subject over the past few days after Schneiderman sent Rice a letter highlighting their "divergent" views on the issue (read: I'm right; you're wrong) and Team Rice struck back by calling Schneiderman's broadside a mere political stunt.

The letter below, addressed to Rice, is signed by Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Councilman Robert Jackson, Chairman of the Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, Co-Chair of the Council's Progressive Caucus, as well as state Sen. Jose Peralta and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. (Some of the aforementioned have endorsed Schneiderman, btw.)

The takeaway:

"We are writing because we have been dismayed by your effort in recent days to mislead voters about your record and position on Rockefeller Drug Laws, and are respectfully asking that you cease claiming to have been a strong supporter of the landmark 2009 Rockefeller Drug Law reforms.

The truth is that not only did you lobby your Republican senator to oppose these measures, but as recently as last month, you even continued to oppose the core provision of the reform package: giving judges discretion in sentencing decisions."

The letter comes as state Sen. Craig Johnson offered his stalwart support of Rice (read his statement after the jump.)


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2010/06/drug-policy-alliance-lawmakers.html#ixzz0rVMahAS2

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http://dyn.politico.com/blogs/maggiehaberman/index.cfm/tag/Schneiderman

 

June 14, 2010

Schneiderman to Rice: Your words, counselor

State Sen. Eric Schneiderman is firing back at his Attorney General primary rival, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, in their ongoing battle over the Rockefeller Drug Laws, a key issue for many liberal Democratic primary voters that opponents of the law say unfairly targets people of color.

Rice had said Schneiderman distorted her words and is getting validation from other lawmakers about whether she fought against reforms to how first-time non-violent felony drug offdenders to shift sentencing from prosecutors to judges. 

But Scheiderman's camp sent out a letter from a group of anti-RDL activists, including reform-fighter Anthony Papa, who was convicted under the laws.  

"The truth is that not only did you lobby your Republican senator to oppose these measures, but as recently as last month, you even continued to oppose the core provision of the reform package: giving judges discretion in sentencing decisions," the letter says.

"After a watered-down version of reform without the judicial sentencing provision was passed by the Republicans in 2004, Andrew Cuomo called the bill 'half-a-loaf,' saying, The pressure is for Rockefeller reform and that's not what this is. This is not judicial (sentencing) discretion. This is not significantly reducing the burdensome length of punishment...This is simply not what we've been working for all these years.'

"However, on May 17 of this year, your campaign continued to defend these onerous sentencing rules, saying, 'As we have said, the District Attorney was concerned that removing prosecutors from the process would weaken the community's voice in these decisions. As the community's advocate, the District Attorney often knows the most about a defendant's background and is in a unique position to represent the community in determining which defendants receive treatment and which for-profit drug dealers go to jail.'

"Stated simply, your opposition to this key judicial sentencing provision means that you did not – and indeed, currently do not – support the historic Rockefeller Drug Law reform package of 2009." 

The letter was signed by three City Councilmembers, as well as State Sen. Jose Peralta, a Schneiderman backer, and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, who's running for Schneiderman's seat.  

The line about Cuomo is not accidental, since much has been made of reports that the current AG prefers Rice to succeed him (although he has insisted this isn't so).

June 11, 2010

Schneiderman tries to rope Rice on drug laws

State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, who's in a field of five looking to be the Democratic nominee for Andrew Cuomo's current Attorney General job, came out swinging today at rival Kathleen Rice over the Rockefeller Drug Laws - a key issue with a swath of Democratic primary voters.

Schneiderman described their "divergent" positions on the issues, and said the Nassau County DA "lobbied Senate Republicans to oppose the reforms" he has helped work for to the laws, which many advocates have called draconian.

Schneiderman challenged her to a debate on the "honest disagreement on policy," including a central reform proposal about giving judges discretion to decide on prison sentences for first-time, non-violent drug offenders convicted on felony counts. That duty used to lie totally with prosecutors.

And late in the day, he claimed success.

Rice - who is widely believed to be Cuomo's preferred successor, although he's denied he's made a choice - responded through a campaign staffer, saying she "supported the reforms and she looks forward to continuing to discuss their shared beliefs on jail diversion" for non-violent first-time drug offenders.

Her team added that she was recommending treatment over jail for drug offenders "long before the legislature passed these reforms....people see this distortion of the District Attorney's record for exactly what it is: a desperate political attack."

But Schneiderman did a round robin, saying the "look forward" portion of the letter was an agreement to the debate and his team said he would "immediately work with the other campaigns now...to arrange logistics."

--------------

Nassau DA and state Attorney General hopeful Kathleen Rice is taking more heat over her past views on the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, a subject she's tangled on with rival fellow Democrat Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman and Rice traded barbs on the subject over the past few days after Schneiderman sent Rice a letter highlighting their "divergent" views on the issue (read: I'm right; you're wrong) and Team Rice struck back by calling Schneiderman's broadside a mere political stunt.

The letter below, addressed to Rice, is signed by Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Councilman Robert Jackson, Chairman of the Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, Co-Chair of the Council's Progressive Caucus, as well as state Sen. Jose Peralta and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. (Some of the aforementioned have endorsed Schneiderman, btw.)

The takeaway:

"We are writing because we have been dismayed by your effort in recent days to mislead voters about your record and position on Rockefeller Drug Laws, and are respectfully asking that you cease claiming to have been a strong supporter of the landmark 2009 Rockefeller Drug Law reforms.

The truth is that not only did you lobby your Republican senator to oppose these measures, but as recently as last month, you even continued to oppose the core provision of the reform package: giving judges discretion in sentencing decisions."

The letter comes as state Sen. Craig Johnson offered his stalwart support of Rice (read his statement after the jump.)



Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2010/06/drug-policy-alliance-lawmakers.html#ixzz0rVMahAS2
 

 

 

Flash!  May, 21, 2010   

A new video featuring Sting, George Soros and Montel Williams and Tony Papa <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0A1XTlJAio> Each of them - like so many of us - believes that our drug policies must be grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

 

FLASH!  MArch 3, 2010    Gov. Paterson who helped us tremendously in reforming the rockefeller drug laws is getting a raw deal my the media who want him to resign -  just say no Gov. paterson!!!!!!!

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/emtimesem-misses-mark-gov_b_471730.html?ref=fb

 

Times Misses Mark: Governor Paterson Should Be Applauded for Hiring Former Drug Dealer  by Anthony Papa

 
Recently, the New York Times published what was supposed to be a spectacular expose about New York Gov. David Paterson and his administration. Instead many media commentators like Howard Kurtz, a media observer for the Washington Post and host of CNN's Reliable Sources, said on his Twitter account Wednesday that the Times report on the aide "caps a shameful period of media outlets trumpeting rumors about the governor."

While I agree with Kurtz's analysis, I also think the article touched on an extremely important issue. It talked about Gov. Paterson's closest confidant in his administration, David Johnson, a top aide, who the New York Times painted as someone with a criminal record who should not be in the position he is. Johnson sold cocaine to a undercover cop when he was 18 years old. Gov. Paterson responded, saying "David Johnson has demonstrated, over the course of his adult life, that people can change their personal circumstances and achieve success when given a second chance. I will not turn my back on someone because of mistakes made as a teenager."

As an ex-offender who served hard time, I believe that Gov. Paterson should be applauded for giving David Johnson the opportunity to excel. There are many roadblocks that exist when people with criminal records, mostly ex-offenders, try to reenter society. Statistically, it is well known that if you wind up in prison and you are fortunate enough to regain your freedom, odds are, you will be going back sometime soon.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 67 percent of those set free return to prison within three years. There are many obstacles one meets that can contribute to this startling statistic. Carrying the stigma of being an ex-offender is often debilitating. From obtaining employment and housing, to establishing relationships, life becomes difficult at best.

Ex-offenders struggle to shed the memories of imprisonment after paying their debts to society. But the stigma of having a criminal record follows them around for life. They face a daunting array of counterproductive and frustrating legal and practical barriers, including state and federal laws and policy that hinder their ability to quality for a job or get a higher education. But these policies that stigmatize those with criminal records are now being challenged, as is the case in New Mexico, where legislation has passed that will remove unfair barriers to employment for those who have criminal convictions. That bill now awaits Gov. Richardson's signature. No longer will job applicants have to check a box on a job application alerting potential employers that they have a criminal conviction.

Upon reentering society ex-offenders will find a host of problems preventing them from successfully reintegrating. These include not being able to find employment or secure housing, dealing with substance abuse and mental health problems, difficulty in reestablishing and developing relationships. All of these make life exceedingly difficult and often debilitating. This, coupled with dealing with issues such as institutional dependency and carrying the baggage of incarceration, results in the ex-offender returning to prison either on a parole violation or a new sentence.

All these above mentioned factors results in preventing the returning prisoner to become lawful tax paying citizens and inhibit their ability to take care of themselves and their families.

David Johnson's ability to overcome the circumstances of his past is remarkable and should be attributed to the help he received from people like Gov. Paterson who believe in second chances. The Times, the paper of record, released a "bombshell" that turned out to be nothing more than a dud.

Anthony Papa is the communications specialist for the drug policy alliance and author of a forthcoming book "This Side of Freedom - Life after Lockdown"

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FLASH!   3/1/10       Cameron Douglas who is an addict is facing 10 years in prison.  To read more about this go to my Huffington Post blog
 March 1, 2010

Cameron Douglas Denied Bail: Lawyers Say 'Dysfunctional Upbringing' Caused His Drug Addiction by Anthony Papa

According to the NY Daily News, lawyers of Michael Douglas' son, Cameron, say that their client's drug problems stem from his upbringing by his famous father. They also say that to hear his lawyers tell it, "Cameron Douglas never had a chance growing up in the shadow of a rich, powerful, jet-setting dad."

Cameron has a serious heroin addiction and emotional problems that stem from "notoriety that is not due to any acts of his own but by dint of birth and a difficult upbringing," his defense lawyer Dan Gitner argued.

The judge did not buy the story and denied bail last week at his hearing. Cameron Douglas has to wait until April 14 when his sentencing hearing is scheduled to find out what his future holds for him. Cameron is facing a 10 year sentence for dealing methamphetamine.

In the April issue of Vanity Fair Magazine Michael Douglas admits that he put his own career over fathering his son Cameron. The piece goes on to say that though Douglas isn't one for public hand-wringing, he can't help but see his own role in Cameron's fate.

We may never know what caused Cameron's addiction. Maybe he did suffer because of a dysfunctional upbringing because of his father's fame, or maybe not? But one thing is for certain -- Cameron needs treatment not prison. It's a waste of tax dollars and human life to place non-violent drug addicted individuals like Cameron Douglas in prison.

Our 40-plus-year war on drugs has stifled the open debate this country should be having about addiction and how best to deal with it. Treatment is valid for fighting the demons of addiction. It is also an effective tool in overcoming the government's use of incarceration and punitive measures in response to nonviolent drug law offenses stemming from addiction.

Join the Facebook cause  to send a message to Cameron's sentencing judge to give him treatment instead of prison

http://apps.facebook.com/causes/441324/16688602?m=9e4cc0c7&ref=mf  (click here)

 

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Flash!   12/11/09/     Despite the recent reforms the district attorneys led by Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan keep feeding trash papers like the NY Post and the Daily News nonsense that the flood gates of hell have opened because eligible drug offenders are being released.  This is not the case.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/rockefeller-drug-law-refo_b_384366.html

 

Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms Charge Ahead

By Anthony Papa

 

The dismantling of the Rockefeller Drug Laws is picking up steam. The New York State Assembly held a key hearing on Dec. 8 to press forward with implementation of the reforms, soliciting feedback from courts, treatment providers and community-based programs on their readiness and resource needs to carry out the groundbreaking new law.

The reform, which took effect on Oct. 7, eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses, restored discretion to judges to sentence individuals to probation, drug treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, and allows approximately 1,000 people convicted under the old Rockefeller Drug Laws to apply for resentencing.

At the hearing, lawmakers explored a wide range of issues related to the Rockefeller reform, including: What steps has the court system taken to prepare for and implement the new judicial diversion program, and to ensure that persons who are resentenced have access to community-based reentry programs? Are there sufficient community-based treatment programs available to serve individuals sentenced to treatment or probation, or those released from prison? What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of substance abuse in obtaining public benefits, medical assistance, employment and affordable and stable housing?

"These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health framework," said Shreya Mandal, Mitigation Specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning. Reform also calls for revamping outdated modes of drug treatment, both in and out of prison, and for making progressive changes in how we respond to addiction."

Under more limited reforms to the Rockefeller laws signed by Gov. George Pataki in 2004 and 2005 - which authorized resentencing and eliminated life sentences for individuals convicted of certain drug felonies - 584 individuals were released from prison, and just 9 percent of these people returned to jail, far lower than the state's 39 percent overall recidivism rate. These results counter claims made by district attorneys and law enforcement officials that sentencing reform leads to disaster.

"Opponents of reform try to scare the public with claims that the 'sky is falling' every time individuals with substance abuse problems are sent to treatment instead of prison," said Glenn Martin, Vice President of Development and Public Affairs for The Fortune Society. "But by working collaboratively among treatment providers and Alternatives to Incarceration programs, stakeholders can ensure the success of New York's movement toward a public health and safety approach to drug use."

Enacted in 1973, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were intended to target drug kingpins, but instead the laws led to the incarceration of thousands of individuals, mostly people of color, for low-level, nonviolent offenses, many with no prior criminal records. Approximately 12,000 people remain locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, at a cost of roughly $45,000 per year to incarcerate a single person, compared to an average cost of $15,000 per year for drug treatment, which is proven to be 15 times more effective at reducing crime and recidivism.

As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed, but Rockefeller reform will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 to Life and a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance

 

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

 

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/26224/

12/10/09

State Assembly Checks Up on Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff

 

NEW YORK—The Rockefeller Drug Law Reform took a step forward Tuesday at a public hearing in City Hall. Four committees of the State Assembly received testimony from community-based programs, treatment providers, and courts as it moves forward with implementation.

The reforms increase judicial oversight of drug cases, says an Assembly notice. According to the notice, the previous law really wasn't effective in targeting drug lords, as was intended, but instead affected lower level and nonviolent drug offenders. 

The original legislation was introduced in 1973 under Governor Nelson Rockefeller. It prevented judges from giving sentences, which allow for people to go into community-based programs for drug treatment.

Approximately 14,000 people are in New York state prisons incarcerated for drug offenses, with the costs totaling in the hundreds of millions to taxpayers. 

The reforms place special emphasis on allowing treatment via community-based programs for people incarcerated on drug charges, as an alternative to minimum prison sentences.

Anthony Papa, a communications specialist for Drug Policy reform, spent 12 years in Sing-Sing prison. Papa, who wrote "15 to Life," which is an account on his life in prison, spoke at the event.

In a follow-up press statement, he said he "spent ... another 12 [years] fighting the inhumane laws," adding that he is "thrilled that the law has been changed." He feels the Rockefeller laws were unfair to him because he was convicted of only one drug charge and got a 12-year sentence in prison as a result.

Legal Aid Society Mitigation Specialist Shreya Mandal commended the reform, saying it can "allow people to reclaim their dignity" through "empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning."

State Senator Frank Padavan said in September that the reform is problematic because a section in the provision makes it so drug offenders and dealers can get up to three offenses on their record and it does not have to be "disclosed during criminal background checks for positions of trust," he posted on his Web site.

As a result, Padavan sponsored legislation, dubbed "Repeal the Seal," that requires criminal transparency in the reform provision.

The reforms could reduce the prison population, potentially costing the state less money.

A 2008 report released by the Pew Center of the States found that approximately 1 in 100 people in the U.S. were incarcerated. In 2007, the state spent $2.6 billion on corrections expenditures. New York's higher education received $3.5 billion in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLash!  Rockefeller reforms officially kick in on october 7th, 2009

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/david-paterson-does-the-r_b_313058.html

 

David Paterson Does the Right Thing and Drops the Rock

By Anthony Papa

Today is a historic day for New York, the day that the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms kicked in, setting in motion the release of 1,500 low-level nonviolent drug offenders. The new law also gives judicial discretion back to judges, who can now determine whether someone should get treatment for their addiction instead of a jail cell.

I went to Brooklyn's Supreme Court and attended a public event to mark the milestone. The court room was full of activists, politicians and service providers that have been working for years to make this reform happen.

As an activist who has felt the sting of the Rockefeller laws firsthand -- serving 12 years under a 15-years-to-life sentence for a first time nonviolent offense -- I understand the full meaning of these changes. For years the Rockefeller Drug Laws became a political hot potato that was thoroughly debated, but nothing was ever done. Bills were submitted, arguments were made and each political party blamed the other for the impasse. In the meantime, those imprisoned were rotting away in the gulags of New York State. No better off were the family members of the incarcerated, whose hopes and aspirations slowly died as nothing was done.

Governor Paterson deserves thanks and praise for getting the job done. He has been instrumental and worked tirelessly, first as a state senator from Harlem and then as governor, to make these reforms happen. He said that "today was a day for second chances." For me, the governor's statement summed up the purpose of the new reforms. For years the Rockefeller Drug Laws were a symbol of a purely punitive approach to the problems of the drug war in New York state, one based on the archaic and outdated criminal justice mentality of "lock 'em up and throw away the key." Now, under the guidance of Governor Paterson, New York has abandoned that failed strategy and committed itself to a new approach that emphasizes addiction treatment instead of incarceration.

Now that the laws have been reformed, we have to make sure the changes are done right. Advocates and service providers have jumped in and have been working diligently to prepare for implementation. Legal aid and public defender agencies are providing legal counsel. Hundreds of social service agencies around the state have volunteered to provide a broad range of services to individuals who will be released from prison as a result of drug law reform. In New York City alone, more than 100 social service groups have agreed to work with legal aid and public defender agencies to provide services such as housing, job training and drug treatment to people returning from prison as a result of the reform.

For 35 years, New York was known as the state with the worst drug laws. It's time to change directions and make New York known for having the best practices, based on public health and safety.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 To Life and a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance

Join us in New Mexico for our International Reform Conference!

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Associated Press

NY drug law reforms kick in, treatment stressed

October 7, 2009

MICHAEL VIRTANEN (Associated Press Writer)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hundreds of low-level drug offenders in New York prisons became eligible Wednesday for shortened sentences or release under recent changes in state law.

Gov. David Paterson and lawmakers agreed in April to revise the Rockefeller-era drug laws, once among the harshest in the nation and in the vanguard of a movement more than 30 years ago toward mandatory prison terms. They argued that lower-level offenders would be better served by addiction treatment rather than prison.

"Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, we did not treat the people who were addicted. We locked them up," Paterson said Wednesday at the Brooklyn Court House. "Families were broken, money was wasted, and we continued to wrestle with a statewide drug problem."

The changes that took effect Wednesday allow resentencing some inmates and give judges discretion to start sending some new offenders to drug treatment or shock programs instead of prison.

In 1973, then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller persuaded lawmakers to pass tough mandatory sentencing laws, saying they were needed to fight a drug-related "reign of terror." The strictest provisions were removed in 2004.

New York Legal Aid Society lawyer Bill Givney said Tuesday his office has about 270 New York City cases among the roughly 1,100 inmates statewide identified by state officials as eligible for resentencing and has been examining records to verify their status. "We're certainly ready to file quite a number of petitions in the near future," he said.

Once petitions are filed at the defendants' original criminal courts, prosecutors have a chance to respond, then it's up to the judge to schedule a proceeding and rule, Givney said.

The Drug Policy Alliance, which advocated the changes, has been meeting with agencies and treatment providers to try to ensure released inmates get the addiction, mental health and other services they need to return to life outside prison, said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the alliance's state organizing and policy project.

New York's prisons had 59,053 inmates Wednesday, with another 708 at the Willard Drug Treatment Center and 80 at a residential treatment facility for parole violators, corrections spokeswoman Linda Foglia said. Under another change that took effect in July, more than 100 inmates, including some in their 40s, were transferred from general prison populations to six-month military-style boot camp programs.

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State News Magazine   10/09

http://www.csg.org/pubs/statenews/pages/focus5_punishmenttotreatment.aspx

From Punishment to Treatment

This year, New York reformed its landmark Rockefeller drug laws and experts say the reforms mark a shift in the states from a strictly punitive drug policy to more of a treatment model.
By Mikel Chavers
Anthony Papa did hard time in Sing Sing, New York’s maximum security prison, after the judge handed him a 15 years to life prison sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York’s notoriously harsh Rockefeller drug laws in 1984.
That was the mandatory minimum sentence for a drug offense under the laws, the same sentence as for second-degree murder.
“I was a first-time nonviolent offender who made the biggest mistake of his life in 1984,” Papa said. Desperately needing money to pay rent, Papa agreed to deliver a package for a man he met at the bowling alley he frequented.
“I delivered a package of four and a half ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, N.Y., for $500,” he said. “I was a mule for 500 bucks.”
Papa walked right into a sting operation and was caught by police.
At the time, New York’s Rockefeller drug laws, enacted in 1973 and named after then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, were some of the harshest in the country and many states followed in New York’s footsteps enacting harsh drug laws.
“It really started a trend in 1973,” said Gabriel Sayegh, who directs the State Organizing and Policy Project with the Drug Policy Alliance advocating for drug law reform.
But for Papa, the laws were more than a trend of the times; they offered little leeway in a sentence that would ultimately determine more than a decade of his life.
“Because of mandatory minimum sentencing, the judge didn’t want to, but he had to sentence me to 15 years to life,” Papa said.
He wound up serving 12 years before former Gov. George Pataki pardoned and released him in 1996, largely based on Papa’s talent for painting developed while he was in prison. Papa wrote a book in 2004 about his ordeal.
He’s been an advocate for Rockefeller drug reform movement ever since.
His efforts—and those of many others—met with success when the Rockefeller drug laws were changed in April. Experts say New York’s reform signals a shift from a strict policy of jail time and punishment for drug offenders to more of a treatment model. That’s something experts say is catching on—particularly in this down economy when states simply can’t afford to lock up as many offenders.
“Basically the trend now (is) to more of a treatment model than a punitive model, where in my case I was treated strictly punitively,” Papa said. “And now it’s different. Judges have more discretion. This to me is really big and it’s significant.”

Harsh Drug Laws No Longer Economical

Experts say the Rockefeller drug laws cost the state billions to lock up hundreds of thousands of drug offenders. Some of those offenders are still in the state’s prisons and jails serving out their sentences.
The reforms to the Rockefeller drug laws eliminate the mandatory harsh sentences under the original laws by giving judges total authority to instead divert some nonviolent drug addicts to treatment, according to New York Gov. David Paterson’s office.
The reforms also beefed up drug treatment programs, according to New York Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee.
The reforms in New York were enacted April 24 as part of the state’s 2009-2010 budget.
The old laws did not emphasize treatment and “led to huge disparities,” Aubry said. “We felt they skewed the justice system and ultimately in the 1980s and 1990s led to a huge prison population.”
And New York was spending a whopping $2 billion to $3 billion a year on corrections, according to Aubry.
In fact, the budget pressures were part of what sparked the need for reform, according to Sayegh with the Drug Policy Alliance.
“New York and many other states were more than willing to spend gobs and gobs of money on prisons that were bursting at the seams,” Sayegh said. But that is slowly changing.
“It cost New Yorkers $45,000 a year to incarcerate someone for drug offenses,” Sayegh said.
“The legislature had to find savings.”
In May 2008 on the 35th anniversary of the Rockefeller drug laws, a meeting signaled a turning point, according to Sayegh. The legislature’s criminal justice and corrections committees joined three public health committees. The six committees held joint hearings on drug law reform.
“No longer did you have a debate that was essentially turning on criminal justice language,” Sayegh said. Public health and drug treatment was now in the debate.
The options, Papa said, would have benefited people with drug habits who, under the old Rockefeller drug laws, sat in prison for long sentences. “They definitely would have significantly made out better getting treatment than being put in jail,” he said.
The new reforms put “the judge in the driver’s seat and not the prosecutor who had previously been in the driver’s seat,” Aubry said. This way, judges have discretion and can divert drug offenders to treatment instead of incarceration. The practice is evident in New York’s use of drug courts, where judges have specialized training to deal with drug offenders and their unique issues. (Please see sidebar.)
“This year we were able to restore a lot more discretion to judges so they could make decisions based on the individuals who were in front of them,” Aubry said.

 

Reform Spreads to Other States

That same kind of reform is catching on in other states. One example is Connecticut, where similar drug laws were passed in the wake of the Rockefeller drug laws.
Connecticut’s drug laws in the 1980s and 1990s were “right on par with New York,” said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group focusing on drug law reform.
“Like almost every state, we had a huge amount of people doing time for drug-related offenses. The prisons are loaded up with drug offenders—there’s no doubt about it. At the end of the day, you had a lot of people in prison,” said Connecticut Rep. Mike Lawlor.
“Connecticut, like a lot of other states, our prisons are bursting at the seams and we’re trying to figure out ways to bring that prison population down.”
Lawlor thinks mandatory minimum sentences along with harsh penalties for even trace amounts of drugs had a lot to do with the problem.
“My sense is that the existence of the mandatory minimums gave the prosecutors quite a bit of leverage in the plea bargaining process. So a lot of people ended up pleading to jail or prison time mainly because if they didn’t, then they went to trial and they’d get much longer,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor used to be a prosecutor and saw the effects firsthand.
For instance, under Connecticut’s old drug laws, a person caught selling as little as half a gram of crack cocaine—the solid form of the drug—could face a potential life prison sentence. But the laws treated other forms of the same drug differently. Selling 1 ounce of cocaine in powder form—that’s equal to 28.3 grams—triggered the same potential life prison sentence.
The mandatory minimum sentence was also different for the two forms of cocaine. Half a gram of crack cocaine triggered a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence while an entire ounce of powder cocaine triggered the five-year minimum prison sentence.
Half a gram of crack cocaine—which equals roughly half a packet of sugar substitute—amounted to about $30 if sold on the street, while 1 ounce of powder cocaine would amount to about $700 if sold on the street, according to Jones.
But in 2005, Connecticut reformed the laws and balanced the punishment for the two forms of the drug, raising the quantity threshold for crack and lowering the threshold for the powder form of cocaine. The new threshold is half an ounce for either drug.
The state’s drug laws also include increased penalties for school zone laws—those that address possessing or selling drugs within a certain distance of schools, day care centers and public housing projects. What began in the late 1980s as a minimum sentence triggered by selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school in all directions, increased over the years to a 1,500-foot radius from
 schools, day cares and public housing projects, according to Lawlor.
The problem was, in the state’s urban areas like New Haven, the school zones encompass virtually every location in the city.
“So you start drawing those circles and it pretty much covers every square inch of the town,” Lawlor said.
So drug offenders caught virtually anywhere in the cities are charged under the school zone laws, which often come with increased penalties. And consequently, many residents of the state’s urban areas are from various racial backgrounds, as compared to the nonurban areas of the state, which are mostly white, Lawlor said.
He would like to see the school zone laws reformed, because based on his observations, the school zone laws are resulting in racial disparities in the state’s prisons.
And even though the Rockefeller reforms signal a shift in drug law policy in the states, it’s not over yet. That’s evident when it comes to the school zone laws in Connecticut, Lawlor said. Drug law reform touches on many issues including budget, justice issues and issues of racial disparities, he said.
But right now, it just may be the budget pressures that are speaking the loudest.
“The budget reality in a lot of states is forcing people to say, alright do you really need to put all these people in jail … it gets really expensive at one point, like the point we’re at now, it’s really expensive. Unless you make a change, it’s going to keep on getting worse,” Lawlor said.
—Mikel Chavers is associate editor of State News magazine.

 

------------------

 
Flash!   September 24, 2009:   WRITER SAYS NEW YORKERS READ THROUGH LESLIE CROCKER SNYDER'S LIES

 

http://blackstarnews.com/news/135/ARTICLE/6013/2009-09-21.html

WHY VOTERS REJECTED CROCKER SNYDER

By Anthony Papa

September 21st, 2009

On Tuesday September 15, Cy Vance Jr. overwhelmingly beat Leslie Crocker Snyder in the race to be Manhattan's next district attorney. Since there is no Republican challenger, Vance will be voted into office in November.

Snyder, who built her career as a ruthless prosecutor and judge, was beaten so bad that the Village Voice quoted her on election night saying that she was retiring from politics and going to China.

In my view, Snyder lost because of her over-reliance on a misguided tough-on-crime approach, and because of her inability to balance her decisions with common sense and compassion.

In the past Snyder portrayed herself as a John Wayne type of crusader of justice who kicked butt and took no names. Yes, I know she says she only aimed the barrels of her gun at the bad apples of society. But the main problem with that was she could not tell the difference between apples and oranges.

In her run for Manhattan District Attorney Snyder completely revamped her image and attempted to portray herself as a progressive thinker. She suddenly flipped her position on issues like the death penalty and the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Not long ago she was such a strong supporter of the death penalty that she said she would insert the needle herself to deliver the death sentence. She also suddenly claimed to be a leader in the epic struggle to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Her record as a judge told a different story, sentencing low level offenders to tremendous amounts of time for drug convictions.

The office of District Attorney demands a competent leader that possesses a balanced view of justice predicated on the concept of being tough on crime, but also being smart on crime. Recently this approach broke into the national landscape thanks to a smart and tough politician named Jim Webb, a senator from Virginia.

He called for an overhaul of the U.S. prison system - stating that the American system for the prosecution and incarceration of criminals not only needs reform, but has become a "national disgrace".

Webb also sees the drug war as the primary cause for the overpopulation of our prison system, and recently told CNN that marijuana legalization is one of the policy changes that should be considered: "Well, I think what we need to do is to put all of the issues on the table ... If yougo back to 1980 as a starting point, I think we had 40,000 people in prison on drug charges, and today, we have about 500,000 of them," the first-term Virginia lawmaker said. "And the great majority of those are nonviolent crimes-possession crimes or minor sales."

Any discussion of being smart on crime in New York must broach the subject of marijuana arrests. New York City now leads the world in low level marijuana arrests. Even though surveys show half of American adults have used marijuana and a similar amount want to see marijuana made legal, arrests are at all time high in NYC. Since 2002, there have been over 255,000 arrests for misdemeanor possession. As District Attorney, Cy Vance Jr. should find solutions to this costly and ineffective policing policy.

The voters of Manhattan spoke out and elected Cy Vance Jr. as their district attorney. Vance said he will try new approaches to cut crime and I wish him luck. The message I give to Mr.Vance is that if he adopts a balanced approach to justice that incorporates compassion, he will go a long way.

 And as for Judge Snyder, I bid her farewell and I wish her ride on a slow boat to China is a good one.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 To Life and a communications specialist for
the Drug Policy Alliance Network

 

 

 

FLASH!    See the video  where former drug law offender  TERRANCE STEVENS slams ex-judge snyder in her bid to become nyc'S NEXT DISTRICT ATTORNEY  "Leslie Crocker Snyder Exposed"

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHAeArKI-iA

While Snyder is campaigning that she advocates for reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and only sentenced kingpins to harsh sentences this is not true. She only does so seeking the black and Latino vote. Jose Garcia was a low level offender who was sentenced to 15 years to life by Snyder. He was 69 years old when he died in prison leaving behind his wife and children

Now two former Rockefeller offenders Terrance Stevens (founder of In Arms Reach http://inarmsreach.net )and Anthony Papa speak out. Stevens was sentenced to 15 to Life and did time with and was Garcia's friend. Anthony Papa a leading Rockefeller reform advocate who was also sentenced to 15 to Life led a prayer vigil in front of former Governor Patakis NYC office in Jose Garcia's name when he died.

Papa and Stevens started a facebook cause titled Leslie Crocker Snyder Should Not be the Next NYC District Attorney http://apps.facebook.com/causes/34999...


Read Papa's stinging op-ed http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony...

 

-----------------------

FLASH!  September 7th 2009

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/leslie-crocker-snyder-sho_b_277606.html

Leslie Crocker Snyder Should Not Be NYC's Next District Attorney

By Anthony Papa

Former Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder and I have a history. Most would say it's a parallel relationship. Crocker was a "hang em' high" judge who was infamous for handing out stiff drug sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I served a 15 to life sentence under these laws. Crocker wrote a book, 25 to Life, that documents her career as a tough prosecutor and judge. I wrote a book, 15 to Life, a memoir about doing hard time under the harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws.

I met Snyder years ago when I was asked to be a guest on "Full Nelson," a talk show on Fox hosted by Rob Nelson. When I found out that she was also on the show I contacted Randy Credico, who co-founded the Mothers of the New York Disappeared with me. Our group advocated for those who had fallen through the cracks of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Many of us were deemed kingpins by individuals like Judge Snyder. But in reality many of us were not. One individual who Synder sentenced was Jose Garcia, who at 69 years old died in his prison cell in upstate New York. As a graduate of New York Theological Seminary, I was chosen to perform the eulogy in a special prayer we conducted in front of Governor Pataki's NYC office. Hundreds of people attended along with Jose's elderly wife Hilda. We all prayed that the Rockefeller Drug Laws would be reformed in the name of Jose Garcia.

I made a plan to put Judge Snyder in the hot seat and thought it would be a rare opportunity to confront her for her actions. I contacted the producer and asked him for three guest tickets to the show. I called Randy and asked him to bring two family members of loved ones who were sentenced by Judge Snyder to sit in the audience. Doreen Lamarca's brother, Mike Lamarca, was sentenced to 25 years to life. Evelyn Sanchez's son, Junior Gumbs, was sentenced to a 33 to life term under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Snyder and I got into a heated debate on the show. Attempting to quell our differences, Rob Nelson turned to the audience for questions. Randy Credico raised his hand and furiously waved. He was chosen. My plan was working. Credico, who is now running against Charles Schumer for Senate this year, began a rant against Snyder, asking her why she had sentenced Doreen and Evelyn's loved ones to such an extraordinary amount of time behind bars. Ms. Sanchez, who was dying of cancer and had spent her life savings to obtain legal representation for her son, began to cry. Snyder turned red and was flabbergasted by the event. After the show she complained to producers that she was set up. The show never aired.

A few years later I did a pilot reality show about prison. One of the guests was Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder. She was rather cocky when she began bragging about how criminals called her "The Princess of Darkness." I remember asking her to explain her position on the Rockefeller Drug Laws. She said she supported 90 percent of them. At that time over 90 percent of those incarcerated were black and Latino. This alarmed me. I thought, "How could she support a law that was obviously racist?" It told me something about her.

Nowadays there is a new and improved Leslie Crocker Snyder. She is running for New York City District Attorney and, remarkably, now supports Rockefeller Drug Law reform. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this. She sounded nothing like the old "Princess of Darkness." Do I think Snyder really supports drug law reform? No, I don't. She knows that she needs the black and Latino vote. And she knows that public opinion has shifted, as the wastefulness and ineffectiveness of harsh sentences for drug law violations has been brought to light over the past decade. I guess running for a political office has a way of changing a person's thinking.

Anthony Papa is the author of "15 To Life" and a communication specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash !  August 10th 2009 / Rock Laws Reformed

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48022

Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service

RIGHTS-US:
Struggle to Reform Draconian NY Drug Laws Continues


Maite Ventura Oloriz

 

NEW YORK, Aug 10 (IPS) - Before making the biggest mistake of his life, Anthony Papa lived a normal life with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, working in his own radio repair shop in the Bronx. He’d never gotten into any trouble with the law and took pleasure in simple things, like bowling.

In 1984, his whole life changed when one of the guys on his bowling team offered him some ‘easy money’ in exchange for delivering an envelope with cocaine to the neighbouring town of Mount Vernon, Westchester County. At first, he turned him down, but as the man insisted, Papa saw a way out of his debts and finally agreed.

When he arrived at the place where he was to deliver the drugs, Papa realised that his bowling buddy was actually an informant working for the narcotics police, and that he was walking into a routine drug sting.

Twenty police officers were waiting to arrest him for possession and distribution of four and a half ounces (127 grams) of cocaine, a small amount but enough to be considered a felony under New York laws and to put him in jail for 15 years.

In 1973, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller promoted the enactment of a set of stringent anti-drug laws - that have since become known as the ‘Rockefeller Drug Laws’ - which would radically change the lives of thousands of people in New York, especially in the black and Latino communities.

The laws established mandatory minimum sentences for possession and sale of controlled substances, even for non-violent and low-level first offenders like Papa.

A conviction for selling two ounces (56 grams) of heroin, morphine, opium, cocaine or cannabis or for possession of four ounces (113 grams) of any of these substances carried the same penalty as that imposed for second-degree murder: 15 years to life.

Rockefeller, a businessman, philanthropist and member of the Republican Party, served as governor of New York State from 1959 to 1973, and during his last year in office, he pushed these strict drug laws through the state legislature in an effort to combat what was seen as a drug abuse epidemic.

At the time, the streets of New York were besieged by crime and violence and plagued by heroin and other narcotics, and the idea was to isolate users and deter criminals through threats of extreme punishment.

While the declared aim of the Rockefeller drug laws was to bring down the drug kingpins and solve the drug epidemic, they have proved ineffective on both counts, doing nothing more than expand the prison industrial complex.

Soon after their introduction, New York’s drug laws were emulated by other states, as the country embraced the concept of the "war on drugs", which has permeated international narcotics laws, with significant political, military and social repercussions across the Americas.

According to critics, the most severe effect of these laws is that they meant that judges could no longer exercise discretion in their sentencing, as they forced them to apply penalties based exclusively on the amount of drug involved, without considering mitigating factors, the offender’s role in the crime or the circumstances in which it was committed. It was no longer relevant, for example, if the person had a prior criminal record or not.

With extenuating circumstances no longer taken into account, the only way to obtain a lighter sentence was to cooperate with investigations, an option only available to those more deeply involved in criminal organisations, as they have more valuable information to give the police. This means that sentences are longer for small time dealers and for addicts who only turn to dealing to get their next fix.

After 36 years of harsh sentencing in narcotics cases, there are some 15,000 New Yorkers in maximum-security prisons for drug offences and no significant reduction in drug addiction or dealing in the state, according to Real Reform New York, an organisation that advocates for major reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

Blacks and Latinos are the most severely affected, representing 92 percent of all convictions under these laws.

Although drug abuse and dealing exist among all ethnic groups, there are 11 times more blacks and Latinos in jail for drug-related offences than there are white people.

The reason for this is that most of the arrests are made in poor, inner-city areas, where these minorities live. "This happens even though white people use more or less the same amount of drugs as black people," Papa said.

Many critics attribute this to a deliberate police strategy. "The police prefer to have prisons filled with non-violent drug offenders," Papa claimed.

In 2004, the laws were revised and a few timid amendments were made, reducing the terms of some penalties, but basically leaving the laws unchanged.

This year, on Apr. 24, Governor David Paterson, of the Democratic Party, signed a bill that introduced broad modifications, most significantly restoring judicial discretion by allowing judges to consider the offender’s degree of involvement in the crime and grant alternatives to incarceration, such as rehabilitation programmes.

However, the campaign for deeper reform of the Rockefeller drug laws continues and there are several proposals currently being considered.

"We need further reform to get people who have received long sentences for non-violent crimes out of jail," Papa said.

In the United States "there are more than half a million people in this situation, and many of them need treatment instead of being locked up in a cell," he added.

Papa was sentenced to 15 years in Sing Sing, a maximum-security prison in Ossining, New York. "It was a living nightmare," he remembered. "I didn’t know what I was going to do to survive in there, and then the negativity of jail life led me to discover the art of painting."

In 1994, seven years after completing his first original painting - a self-portrait called "15 to life" - his art was exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and his story began receiving tremendous exposure in the media, with New York Governor George Pataki (1995-2006) ultimately taking an interest in his case and granting him early release in late 1996.

After spending 12 long years in jail, Papa was finally free. But rebuilding his life in the outside world was not as easy as he thought it would be. "When I got out, I didn’t know what to do with my life. So I started speaking at universities, to young people, and I became an activist," he said.

"We began organising and formed a street movement to exert public pressure, change constituents’ views and convince politicians to reform the law," he said.

After experiencing life in jail and the consequences of an ‘unjust’ system, he has focused all his efforts on fighting against such draconian anti-narcotic laws.

In 1988, Papa co-funded the grassroots organisation Mothers of the New York Disappeared, an advocacy group comprised mostly of family members of those imprisoned by the Rockefeller drug laws (modelled after the Argentine human rights movement Madres de Plaza de Mayo), which "calls public attention to the virtual disappearance of drug war prisoners into the hidden confines of the United States prison industrial complex."

Today, he works as a communications specialist for the non-governmental Drug Policy Alliance Network.

He has also written a memoir, entitled "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom" and published in 2004, which is currently being made into a movie by filmmaker Brian Swibel.

"I hope it will become a major film that denounces the war on drugs and serves as a wake-up call to reform these laws," Papa said.

Many politicians have also taken a position on the war on drugs. Jim Webb, a senator for Virginia who has been pushing for reform for years, claims that not only are changes urgently needed, but the tens of thousands of people serving long prison sentences for non-violent crimes have meant that the U.S. "criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace."

On the other hand, New York Senator Dale Volker says the proposed reform of the Rockefeller drug laws would allow convicted drug addicts to get jobs working with children and senior citizens.

"This feel-good legislation will now allow drug addicts to apply to be teachers, doctors, foster parents, child-care workers, nursing home aides, and firefighters, since their backgrounds will now be sealed from their potential employer," he said last May. (END/2009)
 

---------------------------

flash!  aPRIL 24  2009

Governor Signs Rockefeller Drug Reform Laws

 

qUEENS, ny APRIL 24, 2009

Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance thanks Gov. Paterson at today’s Rockefeller Drug Law Reform bill signing ceremony in Corona, Queens, at the Elmcor Community Center. Mr. Papa served 12 years in prison under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The event honored longtime reform champion, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, who was a drug treatment counselor at the community center for many years.

 “After many years of fighting these laws from behind bars and as a free man, I am grateful that we have finally achieved meaningful reform” said Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance who once spent 12 years in prison under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. “Now, it’s time to embrace the changes and set free those who have been imprisoned under harsh and unjust mandatory sentencing, allowing those who are eligible for judicial relief to be reunited with their families and start productive lives as citizens of New York.”

Photo taken by: Robert Etropolszky

 

 

 

flash! april 21, 2009 

In April 2009, Governor David Paterson signed legislation enacting real reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. The changes include: eliminating mandatory minimums and returning judicial discretion in most (but not all) drug cases; reforming sentences; expanding drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration; and allowing resentencing of some currently incarcerated people who are serving sentences under the old laws. With these reforms, New York begins its shift away from the Rockefeller Drug Law regime, and moves towards a public health and safety approach to drug policy.

The 2009 reforms include the following:

Restores judicial discretion and eliminates mandatory prison in low-level drug cases

  1. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of first time non-violent Class B, C, D and E felonies. Judges can sentence to probation, treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  2. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of second time non-violent Class C, D, and E felonies. Judges can sentence to probation, treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  3. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of second time non-violent Class B felonies who are deemed by a drug treatment counselor as being drug dependent or have abused drugs or alcohol. Judges can sentence to treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  4. Mandatory prison terms are still required for second-time Class B felonies if defendant was convicted of, or had pending, a violent felony in the previous 10 years. In this case there is no judicial discretion.
  5. Mandatory prison sentences remain for those convicted of Class A-I and A-II feloniesthere is no judicial discretion. Penalties for these offenses were reduced in 2004/2005, but remain unduly harsh.

Expands drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration, and reduces penalties

  1. Expands drug treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and re-entry services by investing nearly $71 million into those programs.
  2. Allows the court to conditionally seal records of drug and some non-drug, nonviolent offenses upon a defendant’s successful completion of treatment or other alternative to incarceration programs. Police and prosecutors will continue to have access to these records as needed for criminal investigations.
  3. Reduces the minimum penalty for Class B felonies from 3 ½ years to 2 years.

Allows retroactive resentencing for approximately 1,500 currently incarcerated people

  1. Allows those convicted of a Class B felony before 2005, now serving an indeterminate sentence with a maximum term of more than 3 years, to petition the court to be re-sentenced under new sentencing provisions. Judges then make a decision on re-sentencing—it is not automatic.
  2. Allows those sentenced under Class B indeterminate sentences to petition the court for re-sentencing for Class C, D or E felonies "which were imposed by the sentencing court at the same time or were included in the same order of commitment" as the Class B felony.
  3. Excludes from resentencing those serving Class B indeterminate sentences if they have a violent felony conviction in the preceding 10 years; are incarcerated for a merit-time ineligible offense; were convicted as a "second violent felony offender" or "persistent violent felony offender"; or previously sold narcotics to a minor.

Drug Policy Alliance | 70 West 36th St., 16th fl. | New York, NY 10018 www.drugpolicy.org | nyc@drugpolicy.org | phone: (212) 613-8020

Creates new, more serious drug crime statutes

  1. Establishes a "kingpin" provision as a Class A-I felony requiring a mandatory term of imprisonment of 15 years to life. Restoring a 15 – life sentence, which was initially eliminated in 2004, is a step in the wrong direction.
  2. Establishes a new mandatory minimum Class B felony provision for adults 21 and over that sell to minors under 17 years of age.

Background on New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws

Using prison to address drug abuse: The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973 under then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, mandated extremely harsh mandatory-minimum prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. Supposedly intended to target major dealers (kingpins), most of the people incarcerated under these laws were convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses, and many had no prior criminal records. The laws marked an unprecedented shift towards addressing drug abuse through the criminal justice system instead of the medical and public health systems. It was a shift that New Yorkers would soon discover didn’t work and come to regret.

Waste of taxpayer dollars: Approximately 12,000 people remain locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, representing nearly 21% of the prison population. The state spends over $525 million per year to incarcerate people for drug offenses – 66% have previously never been to prison, and 80% have never been convicted of a violent felony. It costs approximately $45,000 to incarcerate a person for one year, while treatment costs average $15,000 per year, and is proven to be 15 times more effective at reducing crime and recidivism.

Extreme racial disparities: The laws have led to extraordinary racial disparities in the state’s criminal justice system. Studies show that rates of addiction, illicit drug use and illicit drug sales are approximately equal between racial groups. But while Black and Latino people make up only 32% of New York State’s population, they comprise nearly 90% of those currently incarcerated for drug felonies. This is one of the highest levels of racial disparities in the nation, and is widely considered a human rights disgrace.

Limited changes in 2004 and 2005: After years of vigorous advocacy, in December 2004 the NY State Legislature passed limited reforms of the laws, including some sentence reductions, increases in merit time, and improvements to parole. These reforms were a small step forward, but did not constitute real reform—for instance, the changes did not restore judicial discretion or provide funds for community-based drug treatment. As then-Republican Senate Leader Joseph Bruno admitted: "This is only a small step, and we need to do more."

Today: Towards a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York

Real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws sets the stage for the development of a public health and safety approach to drug policy in New York City and State – policies that can successfully reduce the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with drug dependency and abuse. New Yorkers are ready and have already begun outlining the best practices of this new approach: In January of 2009, DPA and The New York Academy of Medicine convened the historic conference, New Directions for New York. Hundreds of stakeholders from the community, from NY City and State government, and the fields of public health, treatment, and criminal justice assembled to explore a coordinated public health and safety approach to drugs. Lessons from that gathering will continue to help shape the future of drug policy in New York.

 

----------------------

FLASH!  

Tue.,Mar. 27, 2009

Rockefeller Drug Laws Challenged - New York Post

Anthony Papa featured

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1E8bTUbquM

__________________

N.Y./Region  3/5/2009

The Rockefeller Drug Laws

The New York State Assembly is set to pass legislation to repeal much of what remains of the '70s-era drug laws.

Featuring Anthony Papa

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/03/04/nyregion/1194838345272/the-rockefeller-drug-laws.html

 

 

 

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=5bb1982be79fb8d44ab6e06b9f559f5b

 

Tony Papa's Vindication

NY Reforms Rockefeller Drug Laws

New America Media, News feature, by Marcelo Ballvé, Posted: Mar 27, 2009

NEW YORK -- As hard as he fought for it, Tony Papa sometimes thought this day would never come. Now that it has, he's still not quite sure how to handle it.

An hour after the announced deal on Friday to reform the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, New York statutes that routinely lead to long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, Papa sits in his office cluttered with memorabilia from half a lifetime fighting the laws, and can't shake the disbelief. "I'm actually still in a daze, really," he says.

Papa, who had no prior criminal record, was arrested in 1985 as he was delivering four ounces of cocaine, something he said he did only because he was desperate for the promised $500 payoff, and sentenced to 15 years to life. Under the Rockefeller laws, enacted in 1973, the judge had no discretion to hand down a more lenient sentence. So, like thousands of young drug offenders sentenced under the laws, the Bronx-born and raised Papa went straight from the streets to Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison, with no stops in between. He wasn't given a shot at probation, counseling or treatment.

The reforms will allow judges more discretion when sentencing and allow them to order more alternatives like treatment and probation. They also will eliminate mandatory prison sentences for first- and second-time drug offenders and retroactively allow more than 1,000 nonviolent inmates to apply for re-sentencing.

In a recent column at the Huffington Post, a kind of open letter to Bernard Madoff, Papa describes his time in prison so that the Ponzi scam artist might know what to expect: "It's about learning how to live in the present, no matter how bleak the present is. Dwelling on your past and hoping for the future will become as painful as it is futile. You will have to forget about life on the outside in order to maintain your sanity on the inside."

For 12 years, Papa remained on the inside, and it was only the paintbrush that saved him from more time. He took up art in prison, and one day the Whitney Museum chose one of his paintings for an exhibit. In the painting, Papa grips his bald head, a gesture of desperation, while an inky blackness swirls in the background. A paintbrush points outward, and a digital watch on his wrist alludes to that common denominator of prison sentences, however unjustified: time.

He became something of a minor celebrity, an embodiment of what critics perceived as the laws' fundamental unfairness. Finally, in 1997, Gov. George Pataki granted him clemency. In the years since, Papa has been featured in hundreds of articles, news programs and documentaries. He wrote a memoir about his experiences, “15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom,” and co-founded Mothers of the New York Disappeared, which lobbies on behalf of those trapped in what some activists call the "Rockefeller Gulag."

Bits and pieces of Papa's career as an artist-activist decorate his office at the Drug Policy Alliance or DPA, where along with other staffers he lobbies for an end to the drug war and criminal justice reform. There are parts to his art installation, "The Drug War," built around a banner that reads, "According to DPA Zogby poll 45 percent support making cigarettes illegal within 10 years: Time to build more prisons?" He also has a binder full of photos with celebrities and politicians who have supported him, including Def Jam founder Russell Simmons and, notably, New York Gov. David Paterson.

According to the DPA, 20 percent of the state's prison population was sentenced for drug violations, and 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

Paterson became governor early last year, when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign after it was found he was a client of a prostitution ring. Paterson, the state's first black governor, is highly unpopular right now, but Papa credits him with loyalty to the movement for a reform of the Rockefeller laws.

"I knew something positive would happen with him as governor," says Papa, 49, who wears a salt-and-pepper goatee and glasses. "He's stood by us for many years. I'm glad that the stars finally aligned."

Prosecutors and some Republican legislators opposed a reform of the Rockefeller laws. They pointed out that parts of the laws had already been eased in 2004 and 2005, and argued that further softening of drug sentencing could lead law enforcement to lose control of crime in the state and New York City.

Legislators in some upstate districts of New York dependent on prisons for employment and revenue also tried to oppose the deal. But with the governor's office and both houses of the legislature controlled by Democrats, and a budget crisis creating demands for cost cutting, opponents lost the battle. Democrats say the announced reforms will save the state $250 million a year.

Although the political will to reform the Rockefeller laws had been building for months, as recently as three weeks ago Papa still wasn't sure a deal would go through, since similar efforts had been blocked before by political maneuverings. "I have a little faith," he said uncertainly then.

Now, the laws seem headed for the history books, and Papa has another reason for satisfaction: Three days before, producers of Will Ferrell's Broadway show on President George W. Bush had optioned his memoir for a feature film. "I've been waiting a long time for this day," says Papa. How will he celebrate? "I'm definitely going to have a couple of drinks."

 __________________

Producers lock up prison memoir

Variety alum Mike Jones to pen '15 to Life'

By DAVE MCNARY

Producers B. Swibel and Barrett Stuart have optioned feature rights to Anthony Papa's prison memoir, "15 to Life," and have tapped Mike Jones to adapt.

The project marks Swibel's first foray into feature film after producing Broadway shows "Xanadu" and Will Ferrell's "You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W Bush."

"15 to Life" centers on Papa's sentence in a New York maximum-security prison for a nonviolent drug offense. During his 12 years in prison he became an artist whose work was shown at the Whitney Museum, leading to then-Gov. Pataki granting him clemency.

Jones, a former Variety reporter, recently sold his adaptation of Steven Sherrill's "The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break" to the Gotham Group.

Read the full article at:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118001620.html

 

 

 

Flash!   1/7/2009  Paterson Calls for Reform of the Rockefeller Drugs Laws in his State of the State Speech!

 

Paterson: reform Rockefeller drug laws
Albany Times Union, NY - Jan 7, 2009
“I cannot think of a criminal justice strategy that has been more unsuccessful than the Rockefeller Drug laws,” said Paterson. ...

 


Flash!   Paterson Grants Clemency!  A little media pressure works wonders!

 
 

Rockefeller Drug Reform, Not Forgotten

 

ALBANY—Will this actually be the year for Rockefeller Drug Law reform?

"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.

 

 

 Flash!!  12/30/08   Paterson May Be Scrooge Number Two!

 

NY Daily News

Elizabeth Benjamin: The Daily Politics

 Begging You For Mercy

 December 29, 2008

 If you count today, there are exactly three days remaining in 2008 and Gov. David Paterson has so far yet to uphold the holiday tradition of doling out executive clemencies to New York prison inmates deemed deserving of early release.

 Granted, Paterson, who is in NYC with no public schedule today and hasn't made any public appearances since his Christmas Day visit with the Rev. Al Sharpton, has a lot on his mind these days, what with the whole budget crisis thing and the fight for Hillary Clinton's US Senate seat.

 Paterson's press office was mum on the topic of whether he will be granting any clemencies this year, but it seems possible he might follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, on this particular issue (as he has in so many areas) and take a pass altogether.

This possibility has drug law reform activists like Anthony Papa, a former drug offender to whom ex-Republican Gov. George Pataki granted clemency in 1997, very worried.

"We are going to get on Paterson for not granting anyone clemency," Papa wrote in a recent e-mail, noting that the governor was a big supporter of drug law reform back when he was a liberal state senator from Harlem.
"He's in Iraq, which is nice for the press," Papa added (the governor was still traveling on his Iraq/Afghanistan CODEL at the time). "To forget the war in his own state is not acceptable."

To illustrate his point, Papa sent over this photo of Paterson speaking at a book party thrown for Papa at the Whitney Museum of Art in 2004 by AG Andrew Cuomo, who has spoken out numerous times about the need to further reform the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

 The 1970s-era laws were amended during the Pataki administration to do away with life sentences for the worst, Class A, felonies. But the bulk of offenders are doing time on B-level charges, and the sentence structure for those remains largely unchanged, as does the lack of judicial discretion in most cases to sentence clearly addicted offenders to substance abuse treatment centers rather than prison.

One of Paterson's first acts upon taking over the governor's office from Spitzer was to issue a pardon for Ricky "Slick Rick" Waters, a hip-hop artist convicted in 1991 on attempted murder and weapons charges who was facing deportation to the UK.

Spitzer granted a pardon request, too. But, as Papa noted, he provided no clemencies to drug offenders, leading activists to label the former governor a "Scrooge."

Prior to Spitzer's pardon of Frederick Lake, a Brooklyn man who faced deportation to Jamaica due to his conviction of a 1989 robbery, the last gubernatorial pardon granted in New York occurred in 2003. It was posthumously awarded by Pataki to the comedian Lenny Bruce, who had been convicted of "using foul language in public."

Unlike a pardon, which erases a conviction from the records, a clemency merely reduces an offender’s sentence. The Parole Board must sign off on clemencies, but historically it has rarely opposed a governor’s wishes.

 

Flash!   Over 5 million individuals that were convicted of felonies will be barred from voting in the presidential election!

 

http://www.syracuse.com/opinion/    10/8/2008

The Post Standard (Syracuse)

Right to Vote

 Federal law needed to protect ex-felon voting rights

 Wednesday, October 08, 2008  By Anthony Papa

 More than 5 million people convicted of felonies will be barred from voting in the upcoming presidential election. This is a mind-boggling number of people who will be disenfranchised. The most alarming aspect is that many of them are eligible to vote but don't know it.

In New York state, if you are convicted of a felony, you automatically lose your right to vote. According to the New York State Division of Parole, your right to vote is restored once you have completed either parole or your maximum sentence. If you are on probation, your right to vote is never taken away. But most ex-felons do not know this.

When I was released from prison after serving 12 years under the Rockefeller drug laws, I had no clue about my eligibility to cast a vote. When I went to register to vote I was shocked when they informed me that I had to wait until I was first released from parole. I felt the pain of felony disenfranchisement since it seemed I was being further punished for my crime.

I saw my Queens neighborhood deteriorating around me but was powerless to do anything about it by casting my vote. I was elated when, after waiting for five years, I got off parole and was able to cast my first vote since being released from prison. I felt then like I was fully welcomed back by society as a citizen.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in New York state more than 100,000 people are convicted of felonies every year. A record 115,573 people were convicted of felony offenses in 2007. Nearly 62,300 of those who are convicted are currently on probation for felonies. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of individuals who probably think they cannot vote forever.

There is a growing concern among the public and policymakers for these people to discover their eligibility to cast a ballot. New York State Assemblyman Nick Perry of the 58th District of Kings County is one of those concerned. He currently is sponsoring legislative bill A4107, which would require the Division of Criminal Justice Services to notify former inmates that their right to vote has been restored within 30 days prior to their release.

In addition, it would require voter registration forms to be provided to these individuals. The bill will help former inmates reintegrate more fully into society by empowering them with the right to vote.

You may wonder why prisoners are not notified of this right. I think the problem lies in the voting system itself. In a report by the Brennan Center and the ACLU, based on hundreds of interviews with New York election officials, they found that one third of them did not know that individuals on probation could vote.

The report urged states to better train election officials and to eliminate complicated registration procedures and paperwork to make sure criminal defendants are fully informed about their voting rights.

Even at the federal level, legislation was introduced last week that would restore the right to vote in federal elections to individuals who were previously convicted of a crime, completed their prison terms and are living in the community. The Democracy Restoration Act of 2008 (DRA, S. 6340, H.R. 7136) was introduced in both chambers of Congress by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Exercising the right to vote should be an important part of a prisoner's rehabilitation. It's an act that makes one feel whole again following years of losing those rights as part of a punishment for crimes committed. If, through voting, individuals can become involved in the political process, they have a much better chance of fully integrating back into society.

Anthony Papa is the author of "15 To Life" and communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York.

© 2008 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

 

 

AlterNet

Fighting for the Rights of Voters Behind Bars

By Anthony Papa, Drug Policy Alliance
Posted on September 23, 2008, Printed on September 24, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/99779/

A coalition of concerned citizens in Alabama is shaking up the GOP with their goal of registering voters in the most unlikely of places -- state prisons. A voter registration drive led last week by Rev. Kenny Glasgow, began registering prisoners to vote, a right guaranteed under Alabama's State Constitution, so they could cast absentee ballots.

The drive was originally embraced by Richard Allen, the commissioner of corrections in Alabama, but it was stopped when he received a letter on Thursday from the Alabama Republican Party opposing the drive. Its chairman, Mike Hubbard, told Mr. Allen that the party supports voter registration but not for prisoners, citing a need for safeguards against possible voter fraud.

Rev. Glasgow challenged this statement and said, "Voter registration drives are an essential part of our democracy. This action by the GOP and the Department of Corrections smacks of voter intimidation. Our focus isn't politics, its restoration. We're just doing what the Bible says, visiting people in prison and ministering to them. The chairman of the Republican Party and the chairman of the Democratic Party can go into prisons with us and monitor the registration process to make sure it's nonpartisan, if that's a concern."

In Alabama, nearly 250,000 people have been stripped of their right to vote due to a felony conviction. But, in a 2006 court ruling which was the result of a lawsuit by Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a judge found that only those persons convicted of felonies of "moral turpitude" lose their right to vote. The judge found that certain felonies -- such as drug possession -- do not constitute crimes of moral turpitude and, therefore, individuals convicted of those crimes do not lose their voting rights, even during incarceration.

Rev. Glasgow's organization, Alabama-based The Ordinary People's Society (TOPS) and their national partner, the Drug Policy Alliance, estimate that more than 50,000 people convicted in Alabama of felonies falling outside the "moral turpitude" definition have been wrongly denied their right to vote, or anyway believe they lost that right due to a felony conviction.

While drug use is proportionally equal across all racial lines, African Americans are incarcerated for drug crimes at much higher rates than whites. Blacks make up only 26 percent of Alabama's population but are nearly 60 percent of the prison population. And, for every white person in an Alabama jail, there are about four black people.

"We've got to start restoring people's lives by providing treatment, by restoring the right to vote," said Reverend Kenneth Glasgow, TOPS executive director and state coordinator of their New Bottom Line campaign. "When a person gets a felony conviction, they can lose more than their voting rights; they can lose public assistance, public housing and financial aid for school. The drug war has become a war on people and we now spend more on incarceration than on treatment. Why do we spend more on producing criminals than producing citizens? We need a new bottom line."

The right to vote is an important part of the rehabilitation process and should be given to those who have paid their debt to society. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. A few years ago, I was one of those Americans. I was on parole and could not vote after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. After my release, I felt the pain of felony disenfranchisement since it seemed I was being further punished for my crime. I was elated when, after waiting for five years, I got off parole and was able to cast my first vote. I felt I was fully welcomed back by society as a citizen.

"Alabama state law makes it clear that people incarcerated for simple drug possession never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated," said Glasgow. "The GOP and the Alabama Department of Corrections cannot decide on their own which constituencies are going to have access to the vote, and which will be barred from it. We live in a democracy, after all."

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2008 Drug Policy Alliance All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/99779/

--------------------------

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/susan-sarandon-stop-the-e_b_128086.html

 

Susan Sarandon: "Stop the Execution of Troy Davis"

By Anthony Papa Posted September 21, 2008

On September 23rd at 7pm Troy Davis is set to be executed by lethal injection by the State of Georgia. He maintains his innocence in the 1989 murder of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Davis was convicted on August 19, 1989. Since then several major witnesses recanted their testimony. Their statements were the crux of the prosecutorial evidence used to convict Davis, since no other significant evidence such as a murder weapon, DNA or fingerprints were found.

The quest to save Troy Davis has received worldwide attention. Pleas from important and respected leaders such as Pope Benedict XVI, former president Jimmy Carter and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu have been heard. His pleas for clemency have been turned down twice by the Georgia State Pardons and Parole Board. Amnesty International conducted an extensive examination of the case, documenting the many recantations, inconsistencies, contradictions and unanswered questions. Its report on the case drew widespread attention, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the NAACP said they are planning a rally at 11 a.m. on September 22nd in front of the State Capitol to stay the execution of Davis. What might be too little too late, the United States Supreme Court will hear an appeal on September 29th.

Actor/Activist Susan Sarandon in a recent letter she wrote to the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Parole stated

"Despite mounting evidence that Davis may be in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to the courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons. Instead, the prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of who allege police coercion and most of whom have since recanted their testimony. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would...go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed...I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.

It is deeply troubling that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that since 1973, 129 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States due to wrongful conviction. We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis."
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely, Susan Sarandon

Even family members of those who were violently murdered speak out against the execution of Troy Davis. Derrel Myers, a bereaved father who lost Jojo, his 23 year old son, speaks eloquently about his son's death and how he came to terms with it in a interview on Raising Sand Radio

You can protest this travesty of justice by calling the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider its clemency decision, telephone board chair Gale Buckner at 404-657-9350, or Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker at 404-656-3300        .

More information on the case can be found at www.gfadp.org and www.troyanthonydavis.org. Please support the Campaign to End the Death Penalty Martina Correia, sister and advocate of Troy Davis is scheduled to speak at the Critical Resistance Conference in Oakland on September 27, 2008

 

Raising Sand Radio - Monday September 14: 2008

Tony Papa: drug laws sent him to prison, his art highlights that life

Listen to or download today's show:
http://www.radio4all.net:8080/files/sgalleymore@hotmail.com/3035-1-papa_mix.mp3

Tony Papa spent 12 of 15 years of his youth in Sing Sing Prison for a minor drug offense. While there, he learned about art and to paint. Today, he is active against the prison system and draconian drug laws while also working to highlight the nature of prison. He is communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance and regularly exhibits his artwork.

Raising Sand live Monday from 2 - 3 pm Pacific time, FM 90.1
streaming from 2 - 3 pm Pacific at http://kzsulive.stanford.edu/
Listen anytime to the archived show onwww.raisingsandradio.org or http://raisingsandradio.blogspot.com. (Note:if the server becomes too busy and does not download the show, log on and listen later.)

Last week's show:
Dr. Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer and one of the nation’s leading progressive political analysts. As author of 20 highly informative and entertaining books - his latest is Contrary Notions- and innumerable talks his ideas have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.
Listen:
http://www.radio4all.net:8080/files/sgalleymore@hotmail.com/3035-1-capitalism2_mix.mp3

Thanks for listening and let us know what else you'd like to hear on Raising Sand.

Susan Galleymore
Raising Sand Radio
KZSU Stanford, FM 90.1
susan@raisingsandradio.org
www.raisingsandradio.org

 

 

http://blogs.kansascity.com/unfettered_letters/2008/09/database-wont-s.html

 

Database won’t stop meth labs

The war on drugs has created convenient vehicles of looking tough on crime while hiding being the shield of public safety. But that shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use. It’s not enough that federal laws were created forcing cold sufferers to jump through ridiculous hoops to purchase what were originally over-the-counter medications.

Now it seems that costly electronic tracking systems will soon be implemented in Kansas and Missouri with the possibility of spreading to other states across our country (9/9, A-1, “Database aims to foil meth ‘smurfers’; A pilot program seeks to stop meth cooks from going from store to store to buy cold medications”).

We need to invest scarce public resources into educating the public about the use of meth and providing high quality treatment options to fight addiction. This is a much better idea that creating more law enforcement tools that are downright intrusive and layer on ineffective bureaucratic busywork.

It might not be apparent now, but neither was our right to not be hassled when buying cold medicine before the law changed.

Anthony Papa
Communications specialist, Drug Policy Alliance
New York

 

AlterNet

Unlocking the Power of Art to Counter Injustice

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet
Posted on August 21, 2008, Printed on September 7, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/95929/

The artist's role as social commentator and activist has historically been engrained in our culture. Art and its creation as a response to social and political issues can become powerfully influential in raising public awareness that results in positive change.

Art as a social weapon has been around for a long time. Recall the great German expressionist painter Kathe Kollwitz, who created works of art that centered on themes such as poverty, unemployment and worker exploitation. Diego Rivera and the other Mexican muralists used their art as a tool for the oppressed against their oppressors. They expressed their opinions and got their message across to the literate and illiterate alike, and earned worldwide recognition. In April 1937, the world learned the shocking truth about the Nazi Luftwaffe's bombing of Guernica, Spain -- a civilian target; Pablo Picasso responded with his great anti-war painting, Guernica.

Few public policies have undermined fundamental human rights and civil liberties, social justice and public health for so long and to such an extent as America's 35-year-long drug war. Today almost two and a half million people are behind bars because of this "war." In 1988 while serving a 15-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, I discovered my talent as an artist. One night while sitting in my 6 x 9 cell I picked up a mirror and saw the face of individual that was to spend the most productive years of his life in a cage. I picked up a paintbrush, put color to canvas and painted the image I saw. About seven years later that piece, titled "15 to Life," was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Two years later I was granted executive clemency by the governor of New York.

On Wednesday, September 3rd, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will host re:FORM, an art auction and cocktail party benefit at Cheim & Read gallery in New York. re:FORM will benefit DPA, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. re:FORM represents the second installment in a groundbreaking partnership between the art world and the drug policy reform movement, following DPA's first successful event in 2005. DPA will use the occasion to honor three dear friends of the organization: Donald Baechler, Dr. Mathilde Krim and Fred Tomaselli.

Proceeds from the art exhibit and auction will benefit DPA and be used to respond to the destructive consequences of the war on drugs. The U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- one American adult out of every 100 is currently behind bars. More than 700,000 Americans were arrested last year for simple marijuana possession. The drug war even targets sick and dying Americans, thousands of whom are regularly denied access to medical marijuana, a medication with proven medical benefits for the treatment of a wide range of serious illnesses.

Works of 50 visual artists, among them Louise Lawler and Kara Walker, will be auctioned off. The benefit's co-chairs are John Cheim, James Cohan, Jason Flom, Howard Read and George Soros. Honorary co-chairs are Darren Aronofsky, Alba Clemente, Walter Cronkite, Peter Lewis and Russell Simmons. "We are amazed and grateful that so many leading artists are willing to support our work," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of DPA. Their donations of time and their work will empower our efforts to reform the draconian drug laws that cause so much more harm than good."

This art auction benefit is inspired by past artists who have used art as a vehicle for social change. I hope this show will enlighten others to join us in our attempt to stop the madness of the war on drugs.

For more information please visit drugpolicyevent.org September 3 , 6-8pm, at the Cheim & Read Gallery 547 W 25th St, New York, NY 10001

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/mayors-dogs-gunned-down-b_b_117329.html

Mayor's Dogs Gunned Down by Cops in Improper Drug Raid

 
Posted August 7, 2008


 
Dog lovers of the world unite. Our federal government's zero-tolerance anti-drug crusade reached a new low in Prince George's County, Maryland, when police killed two innocent pet Labrador retrievers while improperly conducting a SWAT-style drug raid on the mayor's house.

On July 29, police burst into the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and immediately shot to death his two Labrador retrievers. They were there to conduct a search for drugs. The raid was conducted by county police narcotics officers and a sheriff's office SWAT Team.

The incident occurred after Calvo carried in a package that was addressed to his wife. The mayor's mother-in-law had told the deliverymen, who were actually undercover police officers, to leave the package outside of his house. When Calvo arrived home that night, he brought the package inside. That's when the police broke down the door and immediately opened fire on the mayor's two dogs as they ran away from the narco-cops.

Police began tracking the package at a Midwest post office where drug sniffing dogs had discovered that the package contained 32 pounds of marijuana. Calvo said he had no idea how the package arrived at his home and that the sheriff's deputies entered without knocking. Then they immediately executed Payton, his 7-year old dog first, followed by Chase, a 4-year-old Lab, as he ran to another room.

Upon further investigation, it was found that the police did not even bother to secure a needed no-knock search warrant. Timothy Maloney, the mayor's attorney described the incident as a lawless act by law enforcement.

Calvo has not been charged, though police said he, his wife and his mother-in-law are all "persons of interest" in an ongoing investigation. The mayor said, "These were two beautiful black Labradors who were well-known in the community. We walked them twice a day; little kids knew their names and would come up to them and pet them," he said.

What makes this case unique is that this raid happened to a well known elected official. What is not unique is that these gestapo-like tactics happen every day in communities across America.

The drug war is an endless crusade by our government to promulgate its senseless zero-tolerance drug policies by any means necessary. This war on drugs has created convenient vehicles for appearing "tough on crime" behind a shield of public safety. But that shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use. We need to promote policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. In doing so we can reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies.

Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for Drug Policy Alliance

_______________________

 

 

 

The Buffalo News By Anthony Papa
Updated: 07/23/08 6:49 AM

 

Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton is the new golden boy of baseball. Hamilton’s record-breaking performance in Major League Baseball’s All- Star Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium last week is a living testament to that fact that people who struggled with drugs in the past can change their lives in a positive way. A few years ago, Hamilton, who developed an addiction to alcohol and drugs — primarily crack cocaine — was at the lowest point of his life when he was suspended from baseball for three years.

Instead of giving in to the downward spiral of drug addiction, he made an effort to turn around his life. After eight stints in rehab, Hamilton was finally able to kick his addiction and return to baseball. While he may not have won the Home Run Derby crown, battling and defeating the monster of addiction makes him a winner.

Hamilton was fortunate that his addiction was not handled as a criminal manner. Instead of having Hamilton deal with his demons behind bars, his addiction was treated as a medical problem, which helped him get his life back on track. Hamilton’s story sends a powerful message to society. Individuals with drug addictions can become productive citizens, if given the chance.

A realistic way to help those who cycle in and out of addiction is to increase community-based treatment. Studies have shown this to be a cost-effective method of reducing drug abuse. Hamilton was lucky enough to be able to afford treatment and get access right away. Most people cannot afford it. And even if they can, they are usually forced to compete for the treatment slots.

Recent developments in criminal justice indicate the emergence of a national movement in favor of treating, rather than incarcerating, people charged with nonviolent drug possession. These include drug courts, local policies that favor treatment and statewide ballot initiatives that divert nonviolent drug offenders to treatment.

But instead of following this trend, the federal government continues to turn a blind eye toward this movement and steadfastly sticks to zero-tolerance when it comes to illegal drug use. Witness the get-tough policies of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the direction of John P. Walters. In fact, the office is so hell-bent on controlling the so-called drug plague that its policies have turned from overly intrusive to downright warlike at times.

From suspicionless student drug testing to mandatory sentencing laws that dish out extraordinarily long sentences for small amounts of drugs, the drug war continues to be the government’s moral obsession.

We need to implement sensible drug policies that uphold the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies, and are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Maybe then we can give people like Josh Hamilton another chance to make good on their potential.

Anthony Papa is the author of “15 to Life”and a communications specialist for DrugPolicy Alliance.

 

 

 

Flash!   NY Times to governor -  rockefeller reform now!

 

May 27, 2008

Editorial

Thirty-Five Years of Rockefeller ‘Justice’

Enacted in 1973, New York’s Rockefeller drug laws penalized some first-time drug offenders more severely than murderers. Named for Nelson Rockefeller, who was governor at the time, the laws tied the hands of judges and mandated lengthy sentences for young offenders who often deserved a second chance. The laws, which were supposed to ensnare “kingpins,” have filled the prisons with drug addicts who would have been better dealt with through treatment programs. They also undermined faith in the fairness of the justice system by singling out poor and minority offenders while exempting wealthy ones.

New York has made incremental changes in laws in recent years but has failed to restore judicial discretion. A sentencing commission appointed by Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor, pretty much ducked the issue in an interim report issued last fall. But criminal justice advocates have higher hopes for Mr. Spitzer’s successor, David Paterson, who spoke out vigorously for Rockefeller reform as a state senator. He was arrested while demonstrating against the laws in 2002.

If Governor Paterson is looking for motivation to take on this issue, he can find it in a recent report from The Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors prison conditions. According to the report, New York is currently paying $500 million a year to house its drug offenders. The costs are rising as more people go to prison for minor, nonviolent drug offenses.

The law often metes out long prison terms to addicts, petty dealers or people only peripherally involved in the trade. Indeed, 4 in 10 drug offenders in the state’s prisons were locked up for possession as opposed to selling. These are hardly kingpins. In fact, nearly half the drug offenders in the state’s prisons were convicted of the lowest level crimes.

Many of these people are clearly addicts who would benefit from treatment. But the mandatory sentencing guidelines limit the courts’ ability to choose the treatment option. It is long past time for New York to overturn these laws and to return judicial discretion. Governor Paterson, who can cite chapter and verse on this issue, should to take the lead in this important fight.

 __________________________________

 

democratandchronicle.com

May 15, 2008

 

Rewrite New York's Rockefeller drug laws

Assembly hearing in Rochester a chance to hear upstate's side
 

It's positive on two fronts that the state Assembly plans to be in Rochester today for hearings on the outdated and draconian Rockefeller drug laws.

One, the Assembly, controlled by downstate Democrats, holds far too few hearings upstate on a variety of issues important to our communities.

Speaker Sheldon Silver should do more to combat the impression that he and his conference don't appreciate the severity of upstate's struggling economy. On such questions as the revitalization package, school tax caps, consolidation and others, he should work harder to understand this region's particular concerns.

Two, the Rocky drug laws, on the books for 35 years, have proved ineffective in halting drug-related crime in New York. The need for reform was evident 20 years ago, and if the hearing helps to move the Legislature off the dime on this, it will have achieved much. The Senate has been a long-standing obstacle, in part because emptier prisons could hurt some upstate communities.

The chief problem with the existing drug laws is that they employ incarceration and rigidity in sentencing as an answer to the drug crime problem. Tough laws are important — they have helped reduce crime in New York as well as the prison population.

But current laws focus far too much on slapping long prison sentences on low-level drug sellers or buyers. That doesn't get to the kingpins and pushes people into prison who should be getting treatment. The cost to the state is sizable — $35,000 to keep someone in prison for a year as opposed to a residential drug treatment program at about $20,000 a year.

The thought 35 years ago was that tough medicine would cure all ills. That hasn't worked.

It's time for a new package of drug laws that reflects all that this state and nation have learned since 1973 about how to cope with this societal woe.

 

 

Towards Rockefeller Drug Law Reform

 

The AWEARNESS Blog provides daily updates under four socially-aware pillars of discussion: Social Rights, Well-Being, Political Landscape and Hard Times.

http://awearnessblog.com/2008/05/towards-rockefeller-drug-law-r.php

 

If ever there was a time when the draconian Rockefeller Drug laws in New York State might be reformed, or, better yet, altogether repealed, then that time would now. The ravages of that law on Latino and African-American communities, which are disproportionately affected, are vast. But don't hold your breath. Every winter, like clockwork, this issue has come up on the political radar of the New York State Assembly, but little has changed. Politicians, especially from rural or upstate districts, don't want to be portrayed by their opposition as soft on such a fundamental law-and-order issue. And, we cannot fail to note cynically, the jobs at prisons that these laws create in rural upstate districts makes for another disincentive for reform. Governors have come to Albany and gone, and yet the Rockefeller Drug law remains, seemingly adamantine.


On May 3, 1973, when murder and robbery rates were significantly higher than they are now, then-Governor Rockefeller signed the bill containing some of the harshest drug laws in the nation. Rockefeller, a moderate Republican, was, at the time, mulling a White House run and wanted to toughen up his country club image among the party's red-meat base. The Rockefeller drug laws have largely remained, despite protests from so many disparate organizations and individuals, because of law-and-order electoral realities at the local level.


"Under these laws," wrote Anthony Papa, an ex-convict, in the Gotham Gazette, "people convicted of drug offenses face the same penalties as those convicted of murder, and harsher penalties than those convicted of rape." Papa spent a dozen years in the New York prison system under the Rockefeller Laws on a first-time non-violent drug offense. He has devoted his life to reforming those laws. Papa's prison autobiography is called "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way Top Freedom." That title comes from the fact that Rockefeller Drug Law statutes generally require judges to impose minimum 15-years to life sentences for anyone convicted of selling two ounces, or possessing four ounces of a "narcotic drug (marijuana included)."


Democrat Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, who voted against the laws in 1973, told Clyde Heberman of The New York Times, "We're on the precipice of real Rockefeller law reform." As of 2008, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, 14,000 people, or nearly 38% of state prisoners, are incarcerated for drug offenses. Last Thursday was 35th anniversary of the Rockefeller Law.

Ron Mwangaguhunga

 

 

 

 

May 13, 2008

NYC

35 Years of Rockefeller Drug Laws, and Hope There Won’t Be 36

By CLYDE HABERMAN

New York governors come and go (some more swiftly than others). State lawmakers tend to hang around longer, but most of them eventually move on as well. For true endurance, the statutes known as the Rockefeller-era drug laws are hard to beat. The same may be said about attempts to scrap those laws, which came into being in 1973, so long ago that disco was just beginning to be hot.

Nelson A. Rockefeller was governor then. Drug criminals had New York by the throat in one of the city’s periodic heart-of-darkness phases. Rockefeller wanted to show he could be tough as nails with dope dealers. The result was statutes that eternally bear his name in common idiom. Their essence was to send drug felons to prison for very long stretches, with sentences made mandatory and leniency rendered unacceptable even for first-time offenders.

The laws were amended in 2004 and 2005, to ease some of the most severe sentences. By then, they had been deemed overly harsh by most New Yorkers, save perhaps those with portraits of Torquemada on their walls. Occasional polls, like one for this newspaper in 2002, show that New Yorkers overwhelmingly would grant judges more of a free hand in sentencing. That includes a chance to send drug-addicted small fry into treatment rather than to prison.

We are now in a moment when the laws are being scrutinized again, in public hearings organized by a consortium of six New York State Assembly committees. A first round was held in Manhattan last Thursday, on the 35th anniversary of the laws’ signing by Rockefeller, and a second round is planned for Rochester on Thursday.

Judging from the remarks of Assembly members at last week’s session, they want major change, in particular to expand “judicial discretion” over the fate of convicted drug offenders. “We’re on the precipice of real Rockefeller law reform,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat. Mr. Lentol is among half a dozen lawmakers who were in the Legislature back in 1973. He voted against the laws then, and doesn’t like them any better now.

But it is far from clear what, if anything, lies beneath that precipice. The State Senate, dominated by Republicans, albeit with a weakened grip, has not been eager to join the Democratic-led Assembly in tossing the Rockefeller laws over the edge.

Indeed, positions have shifted little over the years.

Those who raise cries of “drop the Rock” say that mandatory sentences are mindless and unfair to nonviolent offenders, that they give too much power to prosecutors and not enough to neutral judges, that they steer too many low-level schnooks away from relatively inexpensive rehab that would serve them (and the state treasury) well, and that they are directed disproportionately hard toward African-Americans and Latinos.

A leading critic of the laws, the Correctional Association of New York, says that their effect is to give elected officials from 35 years ago, many of them dead, more power over today’s narcotics cases “than the judges who currently sit on the bench and hear all the evidence presented.”

In the same camp, you would probably find the present governor, David A. Paterson. He has not spoken up on the subject of late, but he got himself arrested in an anti-Rock protest six years ago, when he was a state senator.

On the other side are those, including many of the state’s district attorneys, who say that the threat of tough sentences is enough to induce some addicted drug violators to seek treatment. And don’t kid yourself, prosecutors say; street-corner dealers, even if not necessarily “drug kingpins,” are violence-breeding menaces. Neighborhoods, they say, are well rid of these lowlifes.

On the laws’ 35th anniversary, each side went to the hearing armed with anecdotes and statistics. A figure that stood out, though, was one that went unmentioned.

Bridget G. Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, noted that in 1970 there were 1,146 homicides in the city. (Police records put the number at 1,117, but that’s not the point.) In 2007, that figure had been sliced to 496. The implication was that we could thank the Rockefeller laws for this marvelous result.

Unmentioned was another number: 2,245. That’s how many homicides the city recorded in 1990, our most blood-soaked year.

So for 17 years, starting with 1973, the murder rate grew and stayed implacably high, even with the Rockefeller laws. Then, over the next 18 years, the rate dropped sharply. The roller-coaster statistical ride is enough to make one wonder, at least in regard to murder, if the Rock really had anything to do with the numbers going up or down.

E-mail: haberman@nytimes.com

 

 

 

 

Flash!   May 8th   35th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug laws

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhYUZ5o9dx8

 

Anthony Papa interview on RNN /Rockefeller Drug Laws

Anthony Papa Communication Specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance on RNN talking about the 35th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws...RockefellerDrugLaw DrugPolicyAlliance cocaine drugwar ondcp mandatorysentencing

 

http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=3&aid=81357

 

Politics

 

 

State Assembly Reexamines Drug Policy

May 08, 2008

The State Assembly explored a public health approach to drug policy on the 35th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws Thursday.

As the Assembly members were meeting, opponents to the laws gathered in Lower Manhattan to protest the current system and asked for reform.

"For major crimes like murders, judges have the final say. When it comes to drug cases, he has to defer to the district attorney. What kind of justice is that?" said Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

They say the legislation prevented thousands from getting drug treatment, instead putting them behind bars.

One such man was Bronx resident and former heroin addict Juan Jordan, who refers his 12-and-a-half years in jail as "lost years."

"They could have helped me to address my problem. Instead, they sent me to jail," said Jordan, who was caught selling drugs in the early 1980s and sold drugs once he left prison. "I was selling drugs to support my habit. And that was everything that I knew to do."

Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bills stiffening punishment for drug crimes on May 8, 1973. The laws made New York safer, but some legal experts say it was at a huge cost.

"Thirty-five years of Rockefeller drug laws means that tens of thousands of people's lives have been wasted," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. "People who have might justly have served two or three or four years went behind for 12 or 13 or 14 years."

Once New York survived a heroin scourge and crack epidemic, drug crimes fell dramatically. In 1996, there were more than 23,000 drug felons in state prisons -- compared to just 13,000 this year.

There have been some changes, most recently in 2005, but to many, those do not go far enough.

"Maybe 35 years ago when the Rockefeller laws were passed, they could say we didn't know enough about treatment," said State Senator Eric Schneiderman. "But it is absolutely clear we have evidence about what works and what doesn't work and it's clear that throwing people in jail for long periods of time doesn't reduce drug use and doesn't reduce crime."

New York's special narcotics prosecutor criticized the recent changes, which she said aided high-level traffickers.

"We also don't want to start to see crime escalate in neighborhoods in the city that are still overrun with drug dealing," said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

Experts say any changes proposed by the Assembly are likely to have the support of Governor David Paterson, who was arrested at a 2002 rally when he was a state senator. However, the current State Senate may not share his desire for reform.

 

Regional News Network (RNN TV)

 

Rockefeller Drug Laws: Marking 35 Years

 

Interview with Anthony Papa:

 

Rockefeller Drug Laws: Marking 35 Years

 

Capital News 9

 

www.capitalnews9.com


Re-examining Rockefeller drug laws


Updated: 05/08/2008 09:08 PM


By: Josh Robin

NEW YORK STATE -- Juan Jordan calls them lost years.

"They could have helped me to address my problem. Instead they sent me to jail," Jordan said.

Hooked on heroin, the Bronx man was caught selling drugs in the early ‘80s. As soon as he got out, he would be back dealing again, serving in all 12-and-a-half years.

“I was selling drugs to support my habit. And that was everything that I know to do,” Jordan said.” I was a heroin addict."

His travails mirror many since May 8th, 1973, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed bills stiffening punishment for drug crimes. It made New York safer, but at a huge cost, say those marking the anniversary.

"Thirty-five years of Rockefeller drug laws means that tens of thousands of people's lives have been wasted. People who have might justly have served two or three or four years went behind for 12 or 13 or 14 years," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.

And it's been years of protests, as Thursday members of the state Assembly pressed for further changes to untie judges in drug cases.

"For major crimes like murders, judges have the final say. When it comes to drug cases, he has to defer to the district attorney. What kind of justice is that?" asked Joe Lentol.

Governor Paterson is a strong opponent of the laws, even getting arrested at a 2002 rally when he was a state senator. He and State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno deferred to a commission examining the state's sentencing.

But despite all of the passion, critics pose a question -- how much reform is actually needed?

"When you're looking at the Rockefeller drug laws, keep in mind the problems that they were looking to address and they were very successful and addressing those problems," said Bridget Brennan, a special narcotics prosecutor.

That was a scourge of heroin, followed by crack.

Drug crimes are now dropping. From more than 23,000 state inmates in 1996 to a little more than 13,000 thousand this year. It’s the lowers it has been in 20 years and only accounts for a fifth of the prison population

New York's special narcotics prosecutor criticizes recent changes in the last few years, which she says aided high-level traffickers.

"We also don't want to start to see crime escalate in neighborhoods in the city that are still overrun with drug dealing," Brennan said.

She advocates drug treatment for addicts, a goal also pushed by those opposing the law.

Copyright ©2007 TWEAN News Channel of Albany, L.L.C d.b.a. Capital News 9

 

http://www.empirestatenews.net/News/20080509-6.html

 

Empire State News: NYCLU claims Rockefeller Drug Laws cause racial disparities, huge taxpayer burden
NEW YORK -  At a legislative hearing held in Manhattan, the New York Civil Liberties Union presented testimony illustrating the stark racial disparities and enormous financial burden generated by the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York City.

Robert Perry, the NYCLU’s legislative director, testified at the joint hearing of the State Assembly’s standing committees on codes, judiciary, correction, health, alcoholism and drug abuse, and social services.    

“We urge you, as legislative leaders, to advance the critique of a sentencing structure that ties the hands of judges, grants prosecutors enormous and essentially unreviewable powers, and results in the routine miscarriage of justice,” Perry said. 

Using maps created by the NYCLU and Justice Mapping Center, Perry showed legislators that 25 percent of adults sent to prison from the city come from areas, black and Latino communities, with only 4 percent of the city’s adult population.  More than half are incarcerated on drug offenses and 97 percent are black or Latino.

A second map showed that state taxpayers will spend more than $1.1 billion to imprison New York City residents convicted of drug offenses in 2006 over the course of their prison terms.  Drug offenses will account for more than 40 percent of prison costs for all city residents sent to prison that year. 

“The Rockefeller Drug Laws are unjust, inhumane and ineffective,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who did not testify. “Our lawmakers can end this chronic injustice. They must muster the courage to restore judicial discretion to drug sentencing and explore alternatives to incarceration that treat non-violent drug offenders instead of locking them away for years.”

Enacted in 1973, the Rockefeller Drug Laws mandate extremely harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. Supposedly intended to target drug kingpins, most of the people incarcerated under these laws are convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses, and many of them have no prior criminal record.

Despite modest reforms in 2004 and 2005, NYCLU says the Rockefeller Drug Laws continue to deny people serving under harsh sentences the ability to apply for shorter terms, and restrict the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs.

 

 

Newsday.com

Views vary at hearing on state drug laws

BY ZACHARY R. DOWDY

zachary.dowdy@newsday.com

May 9, 2008

As spectators booed and cheered, defense attorneys, prosecutors, treatment providers and reformers testified before state lawmakers yesterday about the ongoing battle of approaches in enforcing drug laws and rehabilitating offenders.

The daylong hearing in Manhattan marked to the day the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, a set of mandatory sentencing measures that made New York one of the most punitive states.

Speakers urged the panel to build on amendments to the laws in 2004 and 2005, with most calling for a more public-health based approach over a criminal justice strategy. Those alterations lifted the most draconian elements of the laws, such as lifetime incarceration for the most severe offenses.

The hearing is part of a process to determine what else should be done.

"The city bar believes more should be done," said Robert Gottlieb, an attorney in Commack and Manhattan, speaking for the criminal justice council of the bar association of New York. "Allow them into drug treatment, not prison."

Judy Whiting, of the city bar's corrections committee, said the Rockefeller Drug Laws have wreaked "collateral consequences" on people convicted of drug offenses and their families and communities.

"People convicted of drug-related felonies face really serious obstacles to joining society once they are released," she said.

Lisa Schreibersdorf, president of the state Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, said legislators should adopt laws to "wipe away" a first-time offender's record for minor drug offenses.

Bridget G. Brennan, special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, said reforms to the drug laws have reduced the amount of time people serve in prison and the number of inmates in for drug offenses without lifting the threat of incarceration that motivated many to kick the habit.

"The threat of incarceration is critical to the success of our programs - and it is a critical element in the success of our efforts to keep dealers from taking over buildings, blocks and neighborhoods," she said.

Brennan echoed prosecutor Rhonda Ferdinand, who runs alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programs for the city. "The plain and unvarnished truth is that for the ATI process, the harsh sentences of the Rockefeller Drug Laws was the backbone of our success," she said, drawing hisses and boos in response.

"Drug cases are on the wane, so somebody's doing something right," said Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn). "The answer may lie somewhere in between" reducing penalties and giving incentives for treatment and curbing the drug trade.

HOY Nueva York

Contra Ley Rockefeller

Piden tratamiento médico a cambio de una celda

Alexandra Ochoa / Alexandra.ochoa@hoynyc.com |

2008-05-09

|Hoy Nueva York

Luego de 35 años de la aplicación de las leyes Rockefeller, ayer la Asamblea Estatal de Nueva York sostuvo la primera audiencia, de dos, con miras a cambiar los castigos excesivos por una política de salud pública para los ofensores por narcóticos.

Un grupo de manifestantes, entre activistas, políticos electos, ex convictos y sus familias sostuvieron ayer una protesta frente a las oficinas de la Asamblea para apoyar una reforma a las leyes que durante décadas ha enviado a miles de adictos a las cárceles por porte de dosis mínimas en lugar de ofrecerles un tratamiento para superar su adicción.

"Estar en la cárcel fue una pesadilla que pude superar por mi fe en Dios", dijo Anthony Papa, quien estuvo 12 años en prisión por llevar 4 onzas de cocaína en 1985. "Yo se que estar en la cárcel no le ayuda a nadie a dejar las drogas por eso estamos pidiendo un acercamiento diferente al problema".

Según los números de Drug Policy Alliance, un 90% de los presos por asuntos de drogas son afro americanos y latinos.

Un proyecto de ley introducido por el líder de la minoría del senado estatal el año pasado, Eric Schneiderman, se encuentra en estudio.

"La guerra contra las drogas ha sido sin duda la política social más devastadora y disfuncional desde la esclavitud", dijo Jack Cole, director de Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

 

Journal News editorial

May 8, 2008

Happy anniversary - not!

New York state is as conflicted as they come when it comes to drug crime and punishment. Policy-makers loathe drug dealers but pursue anti-drug strategies that do little to reduce the number of users; they lament the inefficiencies associated with maintaining half-empty state prisons, but worry more about the job losses and lost political clout that would come with consolidating prisons; many acknowledge the unfairness of our so-called Rockefeller drug laws, which are responsible for imprisoning thousands upon thousands of relatively minor offenders, but fail to muster the political will to untangle the 35-year-old mess. Our drug laws not only are ineffective, but also hinder efforts to pursue policies that might rehabilitate people and whole communities.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the drug laws passed on then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's watch, but there will be no celebrations, just Assembly hearings in Manhattan on their ineffectiveness, 10 a.m. in the Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Room 1923. Long-touted legislative reforms enacted in 2004, with an eye toward shortening the sentences of the nonviolent offenders serving the longest mandatory sentences, resulted in freedom for just 400 offenders. Much more should be done to fix drug laws that Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, calls "outdated, wasteful, ineffective and marked by racial bias."

Long prison terms

The hallmark of the Rockefeller measures was long, mandatory sentences for those arrested for even small amounts of illegal drugs, curtailing the discretion exercised by judges. Possession of just 4 ounces of cocaine would bring sentences of 15 years to life in prison. The New York measures were among a spate of mandatory drug laws enacted across the nation in the 1970s, spurred in large part by rampant drug violence. Such related crime, though creeping up in some communities, has subsided in New York; what hasn't is the number of drug arrests, which have more than doubled since 1980, with the overwhelming number of arrests for possession, not distribution.

Over the years, several studies have pointed to racial disparities inherent in the measures, which have tended to mete out harsher punishment for offenders caught with small amounts of drugs like crack, more prevalent in minority communities, than even larger amounts of drugs like cocaine, more prevalent among white offenders. About 14,000 people are currently serving time in New York prisons for drug offenses, nearly 40 percent of the prison population, at an annual cost of approximately $36,000 per inmate. The imprisoned are disproportionately racial minorities.

Resisting change

More and more states, due to widespread fiscal problems, are looking to save money by reducing their prison populations. To the extent that those efforts divert at least some of the savings to treatment, communities will gain. But other interests come into play in New York; in some struggling upstate communities, the prisons are the local economy. Additionally, were it not for the prison populations in some upstate Republican Senate districts, there would be insufficient numbers of people to constitute a Senate district. No wonder Republicans, whose majority in the Senate survives by the barest of margins, haven't been clamoring for change. But that is what must come.

New York should celebrate the 36th anniversary of the Rockefeller drug laws with a drug policy that serves taxpayers, people and communities.


Ithaca Journal

 

Groups renew push to ax Rockefeller drug statutes


By Jay Gallagher

 

May 6, 2008


ALBANY — Five and a half years ago, David Paterson, then a state senator, was arrested for blocking the entrance to then-Gov. George Pataki's office in Manhattan in protest over inaction in changing the state's harsh Rockefeller drug laws.

Now Paterson is governor, and advocates of overhauling the statutes are hoping he has retained his passion to alter them. So far, however, he has been mum on the issue, and a spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.

“He now has an opportunity to exercise the kind of leadership he was advocating for then,” Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, said Monday.

In advance of Thursday's 35th anniversary of the enactment of the laws, Gangi's group Monday issued a report claiming that despite some changes made to the laws in 2004, they still unjustly imprison thousands of mostly poor and minority men while doing little to fight the problem of illegal drugs.

The laws, adopted in 1973, were championed by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as a way to fight the rapid rise of the use of illegal drugs.

The statutes mandated that anyone caught, for example, with as little as 4 ounces of cocaine would be sentenced to 15-years-to-life in prison, with the judge being given no discretion. The sentences were set according to how much drugs a person was caught with.

“The Rockefeller Drug Laws are outdated, wasteful, ineffective, and marked by racial bias,” Gangi said. “They distort law enforcement practices and foster imbalance in the adjudication of drug cases. It is time that Governor Paterson and legislative leaders achieved the long overdue objective of removing the 35-year-old stain of these statutes from New York's penal code.”

About 14,000 people are currently serving time in New York prisons for drug offenses — about 38 percent of the prison population. The state spends about $36,000 per inmate in state prison.

The law enacted in 2004 has allowed almost 400 hundred people serving the long mandatory minimum sentences to be freed.

It also raised the weight of cocaine that would spark the maximum sentence from 4 ounces to 8 ounces, and cut the minimum sentence to eight years. But it still left thousands more behind bars who ought to be freed, Gangi said.

The major changes still needed would restore discretion to judges about whether a drug criminal should go to prison and end the practice of having the weight of drugs in a person's possession — rather than his or her role in the transaction — as the sole factor in a sentence, he said.

But Senate Codes Committee Chairman Dale Volker, R-Depew, Erie County, doesn't think the laws should be tinkered with any further.

“The trouble with giving judges discretion in New York City is they'd just let everybody out,” he said. “I don't think that's a good idea at all.”

 

 

 

 

 

Flash!   Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program  Must Go!!!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/anti-drug-task-force-fund_b_99219.html

Huffington Post   by Anthony Papa

Anti-Drug Task Force Funding Leads to Police Corruption and Destruction of Lives

Posted April 29, 2008

In early March, a federally-funded narcotics task force struggling to increase its fiscal support carried out a crime sweep in 41 states. The sweep resulted in 4,200 arrests, with police seizing large amounts of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. Why a massive raid? Was it the aim of the task force to eliminate street narcotics in the name of a drug-free society? Nope. The cops were merely trying to protect their bottom line.

The operation, called the "Byrne Blitz," was carried out, mostly, to show the importance of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. Byrne grants fund more than 4,000 police officers and prosecutors that support 750 drug enforcement task forces in 50 states. Fifty-six Attorneys-General joined twelve law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, to lead the charge for increased funding and gather support on Capitol Hill.The program's funds were drastically reduced by Congress in 2008 to $170 million--more than two-thirds of its 2007 funding and significantly lower than its 2002 budget of nearly $900 million.

The Byrne grant program has its critics, including the White House whose officials were quoted in the New York Times as saying that the program has not demonstrated results. I agree with the White House. In fact, I would take it a step further -- the Byrne program should not be funded at all. Dozens of major scandals exist, showing the pitfalls of the program that has clearly wasted billions of dollars and perpetuated racial disparities, police corruption, and civil rights abuses.

The most notorious example occurred in 1999 in Tulia, TX. Residents of this sleepy Texas town felt a mini version of a "Byrne Blitz" when 46 people were scooped up and arrested in a sting operation funded by the Byrne program. Tom Coleman, an undercover cop, conducted an 18-month, racially motivated sting that eventually earned him the "Outstanding Lawman of the Year" award from the Attorney General of Texas. The drug bust incarcerated almost 15 percent of the black population in Tulia, sentencing them to a total of 750 years in prison. Coleman was eventually discredited and found guilty of perjury. He was sentenced to 10 years probation. Thirty five of those arrested by Coleman were pardoned in 2003 by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a $5 million settlement from an eventual civil suit was awarded to those arrested in the Texas sting.

In 2002, a report issued by the ACLU of Texas named 17 scandals involving Byrne-funded, anti-drug forces in Texas. The tainted cases were rife with instances of falsifying government records, fabricating evidence and other abuses of power. Recent scandals in other states include the misuse of millions of dollars in federal grant money in Kentucky and Massachusetts, and false convictions based on police perjury in Missouri. The list goes on with additional abuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Byrne grant program has been criticized for wasting tax dollars and failing to reduce crime. Several leading conservative groups, such as the American Conservative Union and Citizens Against Government Waste, have called on Congress to completely eliminate the Byrne program because it has been proven to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources.

The original intent of the Byrne program was to provide financial support to state and local governments to make communities safe and improve criminal justice systems. This surely is not the case, based on its history of corruption and the destruction of human lives. In this struggling economy, misguided policies from the federal government need to be eliminated, not supported.

Anthony Papa is author of 15 To Life: How I Painted my Way to Freedom, and a communications specialist for Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org).

______________________________

 

Flash:  April 24, 2008:   Assembly Hearings on Rockefeller—May 8 in NYC, May 15 in Rochester

Dear Friends,

 An important development has emerged in the last few days related to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. This email contains important information about this development and some potential next steps. Please read down, including the invitation to a conference call next Wednesday, April 30, at 2 p.m.

 Over the course of the last year, many of us have worked together to advance a public health approach to drug policy in New York. We have generally agreed that getting rid of the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws is not enough—New York needs a coordinated drug policy guided by public health principles, not prison politics.

 The Assembly has heeded our call. On Monday, the Assembly announced an invitation-only hearing held by six Assembly Committees: Codes, Corrections, Judiciary, Health, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Social Services. I don’t know when there has been a six-committee joint hearing in the Assembly before, making this an unprecedented opportunity for us to advance our cause.

We have worked hard over the last many months to develop consensus on a range of critical issues related to real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. People on this email list represent groups working in ATI’s, re-entry, drug treatment, sentencing reform, direct services, mental health, civil liberties, harm reduction, families and friends of the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people, community members, and more. We make a remarkable team. The legislation we’ve crafted together will no doubt receive a significant boost as a result of these hearings. And the hearings are an opportunity to transform the way our drug policies are discussed, crafted, implemented, measured and evaluated. I believe this is a real chance for us to re-frame the issue—move it outside of the criminal justice paradigm, and into a public health paradigm. Put another way, this is an opportunity for us to change the game.

 It is important that we all sign up to testify at the committee hearings—and it is equally important that we coordinate our efforts so that our collective message is loud and clear, and that our individual voices can ring strong. Next Wednesday, April 30, we will hold a conference call to discuss the Hearings, coordinate a strategy for our testimonies, and make sure we’re hitting all the right points. Can you join us on the call?

Conference Call
Wednesday, April 30 2 – 3 p.m.  Conference Call in number: 877-306-8255 Conference ID 3297365

 This call will be to:

·         discuss the Assembly hearings

·         coordinate our testimonies, to ensure that the Committee Chairs at the hearings hear about the need for a new paradigm in New York.

·         Identify key action steps for May 8 and May 15, including media messaging.

·         Coordinate follow up steps post-hearings.

 I will be following up with most of you in advance of the call. I imagine there might be many questions, so please feel free to call me directly on my cell phone at 646-335-2264 if you’d like to talk.   ~gabriel sayegh

 Enclosed is the Assembly announcement. The Hearing dates are on Thursday May 8 in NYC—on the 35th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws—and on May 15 in Rochester.

 

 

 

 

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON CODES

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON CORRECTION

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON HEALTH

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE

ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL SERVICES

 

NOTICE OF JOINT PUBLIC HEARING

Oral Testimony by Invitation Only

 

SUBJECT:     The Rockefeller Drug Laws – 35 Years Later.

 

PURPOSE:     To explore the impact of the “Rockefeller Drug Laws” on drug addiction, drug-related health problems and drug-related crime; to examine the impact of the 2004 and 2005 reforms of these drug laws in addressing drug abuse and the illegal drug trade; to examine the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment services as an alternative to incarceration and as a means to address offender recidivism; to determine the adequacy and effectiveness of existing substance abuse treatment services and resources; to explore whether the current criminal sentence structure should be continued or whether judges should have additional discretion to divert drug abusers into treatment as an alternative to incarceration; to examine access and barriers to social services for persons with a history of substance abuse released from incarceration.

 

DATE

LOCATION

TIME

 

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Assembly Hearing Room

250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor

New York, New York

 

10:00 A.M.

 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

City Hall Council Chambers

30 Church St., Room 302-A

Rochester, New York

 

10:30 A.M.

 

May 8, 2008, is the 35th anniversary of the enactment of New York’s “Rockefeller Drug Laws.”   The stated purpose of these laws was to deter the use and sale of drugs by imposing harsh mandatory prison sentences on drug offenders.   There have been a number of amendments to those laws over the years.  Recently, in 2004, New York amended the drug laws recognizing that a drug policy which focused purely on inflexible criminal sanctions was ineffective.  At the time, both the Executive and the Legislature recognized that while significant, the 2004 reforms, as well as a 2005 amendment, represented just a first step towards meaningful reform and that other major changes to the drug laws were urgently needed.  However, since 2004 only the Assembly has passed legislation to further reform New York’s drug laws.   

 

Despite sentencing reforms, large numbers of drug offenders continue to be incarcerated in New York State prisons.  As of January 1, 2008, 13,425 drug offenders were in state prison representing more than 21% of the male prison population and more than 33% of the female population.  Statistics show that a large majority of this population has never been convicted of a violent offense and up to 40% are incarcerated for drug possession rather than for selling drugs.  Notably, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have disproportionately impacted communities of color – more than 90% of all drug offenders in New York State prisons are Black or Latino.  

 

After 35 years of a drug policy focused on punishment with concomitant spending of billions of dollars to put people in prison, the question raised is whether the effort has been worth it and if not, whether New York’s laws should be amended.  Indeed, many argue that it may be time to broaden New York’s approach to addressing drug addiction. 

Unquestionably, drug abuse is a serious public health problem that affects families and almost every community.  Each year, even under the current scheme of drug law enforcement, drug abuse results in an estimated 40 million serious illnesses or injuries in the United States.  Drug addiction is a treatable disease, so among issues raised is whether a system that focuses on  preventing and treating drug addiction rather than simply incarcerating individuals will result in a reduction in the use and sale of drugs – something mandatory imprisonment laws have failed to accomplish.

In addition, another issue raised over the 35 years of experience New York has had under its drug laws is whether authorizing judges to sentence drug-addicted persons convicted of crimes to treatment as an alternative to incarceration would help break the cycle of addiction and crime and make our streets, homes and communities safer.  Furthermore, more effective prison-based drug treatment programs may reduce the rate of recidivism among formerly incarcerated substance abusers and improve their prospects for successful reentry into the community.   Such reforms may also produce significant fiscal savings by reducing correctional costs and the dependence on public assistance dollars thereby allowing the state to invest necessary resources in community-based alternative to incarceration and drug treatment programs.  

This hearing will provide an opportunity to take a fresh look at New York’s drug laws and examine how the criminal justice, social service and health systems treat drug abusers.   

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committees at the joint public hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible.  It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be accepted by invitation only and limited to ten (10) minutes’ duration.  In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committees will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances.  These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to the Committees’ staff as early as possible. 

Twenty (20) copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk.  The Committees would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements. In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committees’ interest in receiving testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities.  For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

 

 

JOSEPH R. LENTOL

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Codes

HELENE E. WEINSTEIN

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Judiciary

JEFFRION L. AUBRY

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Correction

RICHARD N. GOTTFRIED

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Health

FELIX ORTIZ

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

KEITH L. T. WRIGHT

Member of Assembly

Chair, Committee on Social Services

SELECTED ISSUES TO WHICH WITNESSES MAY DIRECT THEIR TESTIMONY:

 

1.      Has New York’s drug policy over the last 35 years reduced drug use, drug-related health problems, and drug-related criminal behavior?  If not, how should it change to more effectively reduce drug addiction and related problems?

 

2.      Are mandatory sentences of imprisonment an effective part of a drug policy strategy?  Should judges have discretion to sentence class B or above drug offenders and second felony drug offenders to drug treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration?  Would expanding the number of drug offenders eligible for court ordered drug abuse treatment as a potential alternative to incarceration help break the cycle of addiction and crime and make our streets, homes and communities safer? 

 

3.      How many drug courts are currently operating in the state?  Are there sufficient community-based treatment programs available to serve individuals participating in the drug court program?  How are the community-based programs utilized by drug courts funded and what additional resources, if any, are necessary? What changes, if any, should New York’s court system make to better address drug abuse and drug abuse related crime?

 

4.      What role should prosecutors and judges play in determining which offenders are diverted into alternative to incarceration programs?

 

5.      How effective is substance abuse treatment at reducing the rate of recidivism among persons convicted of crimes?  What kinds of programs, supervision and resources would most effectively reduce the incidence of drug use and drug-related crime? 

 

6.      How effective have existing programs (for example, Drug Treatment Alternatives to Prison and “Road to Recovery”) been in addressing substance abuse and dependency?  Are there other prosecutor-sponsored and non-prosecutor sponsored initiatives that are as, or more effective? 

 

7.      What substance abuse treatment services exist within New York State’s prisons and jails and do they sufficiently meet the needs of inmates with a history of drug and alcohol abuse?

 

8.      What pre-release procedures used by the Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole help ensure successful community integration of persons released from prison who have a history of substance abuse?  What steps are taken to ensure that there is a continuity of treatment between prison and community substance abuse treatment?

 

9.      What substance abuse treatment programs and resources are currently available in the community for persons released from jail and prison, and do they adequately meet the needs of the tens of thousands of persons released from jail and prison in New York each year?

 

10.  What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of substance abuse in obtaining public benefits, medical assistance, and affordable, suitable and stable housing?    Is specific legislation needed to improve the process and assist these individuals in applying for and obtaining public benefits?   Are employment, training, and/or educational programs available through local Departments of Social Services for formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of substance abuse? What impact do such programs have on drug abuse relapse and recidivism? What can be done to improve employment and training opportunities for this population?

 

11.  What is the cost to taxpayers of the current mandatory incarceration laws? Are there potential cost savings that can be derived from diverting more defendants into substance abuse treatment as a potential alternative to incarceration?

 

12.  Two proposals have been offered recently that proponents say are designed to encourage addicted persons to seek treatment.  One would decriminalize the possession of a small, residual amount of a controlled substance in a hypodermic syringe when the syringe is given to an authorized needle exchange program pursuant to section 3381 (1) of the Public Health Law (A.6337).   A second proposal would encourage addicted persons and others to seek emergency assistance for persons seriously ill from a drug overdose (A.8740).  This proposal would restrict the use in criminal court of evidence concerning the possession of a controlled substance when such evidence is obtained as a result of the person seeking or receiving health care services.   Are these proposals meritorious? 

_____________________

 

Flash:  March 28, 2008

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080328/NEWS01/803280350/1002/NEWS01

ALBANY — Advocates at the Capitol Thursday asked lawmakers to overturn the mandatory sentences required by the Rockefeller-era drug laws and instead let judges decide how long offenders should stay in prison.

Under current law, drug offenders are sent to prison when they would benefit more from drug treatment, which would also save the state money, said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association.

Would you rather run into a drug user on the street who has been in a treatment facility for the last three years or that has done three years in Attica (prison)?” he said.

Members of the Correctional Association and other groups in the Drop the Rock coalition were among many advocates who took their issues to the Capitol in a last-minute effort to get their agendas reflected in the state budget. Lawmakers are supposed to have a spending plan before the new fiscal year begins — April 1 — but they are behind schedule.

Environmental advocates pushed for passage of the “bigger better bottle bill,” which would require non-carbonated beverages — water and juices — to carry the same 5-cent deposit as soda and beer containers. They also pushed for congestion pricing for New York City — an additional tax on those who drive into parts of Manhattan during peak travel hours during the week. The goal of the measure would be to discourage car use in the city, improve the environment and encourage more to use mass transportation.

Education advocates urged lawmakers to increase the income tax for people who earn $1 million or more a year to help fund the state's education system.

The Rockefeller-era drug laws, enacted in 1973, require long prison terms for the possession or sale of a relatively small amount of drugs, Gangi said.

Drop the Rock members said that reforms to the drug laws in 2004 and 2005 did not go far enough. Prison terms for non-violent offenders who don't buy or sell large amounts of drugs should be shortened, and the state should increase money for drug treatment and other alternatives to incarceration, they said.

There are about 13,400 drug offenders in state prisons at a cost of $500 million per year, or almost $37,000 per inmate per year, Gangi said.

The state should invest in alternative drug treatment, he said.

An outpatient drug treatment service can cost between $2,700 and $4,500 per person per year, and residential drug treatment centers can cost between $17,000 and $21,000 per person per year, Gangi said.

The number of drug offenders in prison is declining, according to the state Department of Correctional Services.

“For the 11th year in a row the number of drug felons under custody has been reduced,” correction department spokeswoman Linda Foglia said. “There were 10,084 fewer drug offenders

under custody than there were in 1996 when the number peaked at 23,511 drug offenders - that's a 43 percent reduction.”

However, there has been a recent spike in newly incarcerated inmates with drug charges, jumping from 5,657 in 2004 to 6,148 in 2007, she said.

Assembly Corrections Committee Chairman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens, has proposed a bill that would effectively dissolve the mandatory minimum sentencing laws and replace them with new, suggested sentencing guidelines for judges to follow when sentencing drug offenders.

Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew, Erie County, said he thinks sentencing guidelines are a good idea but could allow too many dangerous offenders to slip through unpunished. Many drug offenders could benefit more from treatment than jail time, he said.

“I believe in treatment, I believe that we should not send low-level offenders to jail unless under extreme circumstances,” such as if they are repeat offenders, he said.

“Very, very few people go to jail under the Rockefeller Drug Laws,” Volker said, only the biggest drug dealers.

“It is the re-offenders, not the new offenders, that are creating the problems with prisons,” he said.

dosburn@nycap.rr.com

 

 

 

 

Flash:   march 5, 2008  :russell simmons  might finish what he started in 2003

 

http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=3&aid=79139

Governor Responds To Hip Hop Moguls Demand For Drug Law Reform

 March 05, 2008

 The governor responded Wednesday to some very heated language used by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons to describe his stance on the Rockefeller drug laws. Speaking out on NY1's "Inside City Hall" Tuesday, Simmons said Eliot Spitzer is failing to live up to promises to reform the state's strict drug laws. Political reporter Josh Robin filed the following report. “I'm very disappointed in the governor. I should say that the hip hop is getting ready to get in his ass,” Russell Simmons said on Tuesday night’s “Inside City Hall.”

 

Simmons says Governor Eliot Spitzer as a candidate talked a good game about reforming the Rockefeller drug laws. But 14 months after inauguration, some feel cheated. "He promised all of us that he would do something about this prison reform issue,” said Simmons.

 The fiery issue is a set of laws among the strictest in the nation, demanding sentences for the sale or possession of drugs. African Americans and Latinos are hit especially hard, making up 91 percent of those behind bars. The laws account for 21 percent of the prison population, costing a half billion dollars a year.

 Running for office, Spitzer impressed advocates. "As a candidate, Eliot Spitzer was enthusiastically in favor of reform of Rockefeller,” said Assemblyman Jeffion Aubry. “I will continue to support efforts to reform these laws," he said in a survey. It’s a position he reiterated Wednesday, but now with a caveat.

 "We're trying to come up with something that is reasoned that will maintain safety. People should not forget, we have seen a dramatic drop in crime over the years in New York State,” said Spitzer. “And that's because – I can say this as a prosecutor – we prosecute crimes, we're tough, we lock up those that are guilty. And so we have to be very measured and reasoned in what we do.”

 A recent spike in the release of violent criminals has Spitzer on the defensive, although aides noted a majority of the parole board's appointees are carryovers from the Pataki administration. Spitzer did set up a commission that recommended in some cases alternatives to prison, but only with the agreement of the court, the defense and the prosecution.

 Some feel no real reforms will happen until the State Senate is stripped of its Republican control – a margin now at just one seat.

 "We're really counting on 2009 when hopefully there will be the leadership in Albany across the board to push for major Rockefeller reform together, with a comprehensive reform of New York's drug policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group against the nation’s war on drugs.

 As for Simmons' remarks, Spitzer still calls him a friend. – Josh Robin

__________________________

 

HUFFINGTON POST   Posted March 4, 2008 | 06:25 PM (EST)

by Anthony Papa

 

Clinton's Crack Cocaine Apology: Too Little Too Late?

 

Does former President Bill Clinton want to become a drug policy reform advocate? On its face, it would seem that way following President Clinton's keynote speech at the University of Pennsylvania last week commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report that addressed the causes of racial disturbances in the 1960s. Clinton admitted his administration's failure to end the racial disparities in sentencing of powder and crack cocaine offenses. He said he regretted not doing more about it, and that he would be prepared to spend a significant portion of his life trying to make amends.

President Clinton's comments came on the heels of historic changes recently enacted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that gives judges the ability to retroactively reduce the sentences of 20,000 crack cocaine offenders. The law went into effect on March 4, 2008 when 1,600 offenders became immediately eligible for release and thousands of others would be eligible in years to follow. Criminal penalties for possession and sales of cocaine are severe. But the penalties for crack cocaine are more severe, despite the fact that pharmacologically they are identical. Under federal law, 500 grams of powdered cocaine is equivalent to five grams of crack cocaine. Despite the majority of users being whites or Hispanic, the majority of those incarcerated for crack cocaine crimes are black. The 100-to-1 sentencing disparity has been condemned by a wide array of criminal justice and civil rights groups for its racially discriminatory impact.

Some critics would be quick to say Clinton's statement is nothing more than a political ploy to generate support for his wife's presidential run and his new-found concern is too little too late. I would give Clinton the benefit of the doubt and welcome him to tackle the tough drug policy issues that exist. This includes battling the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, which incarcerate a majority of blacks excessively long sentences. Out of the 12,000 or so drug prisoners in the state of New York, 91 percent are black and Latino. It makes sense for him to take interest in this issue since the Clintons live in Chappaqua, New York, not far from two maximum security prisons, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Sing Sing. Additionally, Clinton has his office headquartered in Harlem, a community heavily affected by these drug laws.

Clinton should read the recently released report by Pew's Public Safety Performance Project on incarceration rates. It found that one in 15 black adults is incarcerated and also one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is finding his way into our gulags. Clinton can be a valuable asset to the drug policy reform movement and help dismantle unfair drug laws that waste valuable tax dollars and destroy lives. Let's give him a chance to do right by New York's communities of color.

Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

 

 

h

http://timesunion.com/TUNews/author/AuthorPage.aspx?AuthorNum=58

Flash!   Governor Spitzer Grants No Clemencies in 2007!

 

Albany Times Union

Spitzer puts clemency in cooler

Advocates for inmates expected governor to show more compassion

By PAUL GRONDAHL  Staff writer

First published: Saturday, December 29, 2007

ALBANY -- Going against gubernatorial tradition and the practice of his predecessors, Gov. Eliot Spitzer has not granted any executive clemencies this holiday season.

That's prompted criticism from prisoner advocates, who said he missed an opportunity to improve his plummeting approval ratings by showing mercy and letting worthy inmates out of prison early after they've served many years behind bars.

"He's behaving like Ebenezer Scrooge," said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York State. "We expected mercy and a big heart from him, with so many prisoners awaiting clemency. It's very disappointing."

A total of 333 of the 63,500 inmates in the state prison system met the requirements this year to apply for executive clemency, also known as a commutation of sentence. That power was granted to the governor in the state constitution of 1777.

Spitzer did grant a pardon last week, to Frederick Lake, a Jamaican immigrant who spent six years in prison for robbery. Lake has lived in Brooklyn with his wife and sons since 1997, and Spitzer's pardon spared Lake from deportation.

By comparison, the three previous governors, each of whom served multiple terms, used the clemency power freely: Pataki, 32 times; Cuomo, 37 times; and Carey, 155 times.

Spitzer does not have a formal policy on the practice, said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman. "We carefully review clemency and pardon requests on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Anthony Papa is disappointed by Spitzer's dearth of clemencies and pardons. He was granted clemency on Dec. 23, 1996, by Pataki, who was cast as a law-and-order Republican after winning election with a call to reinstate the death penalty.

Papa, who's now a prisoner advocate, said the conventional wisdom was that Spitzer, a Democrat, would be a kinder, gentler governor on matters of crime and punishment.

"It totally floored me that Spitzer didn't show some compassion and give clemencies," said Papa, who served 12 years of his 15-to-life sentence for a drug conviction.

"Spitzer could be countering his downward spiral in the polls by showing some mercy with clemencies. Instead, he's playing it safe politically," said Papa, author of a memoir, "15 to Life." He's a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national group headquartered in New York that is working to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The director of Prison Families of New York, based in Albany was also disappointed.

"The governor knows there are many cases that were overly sentenced and this is his opportunity to make a political statement," said Alison Coleman.

Exercising the power of executive clemency carries a political risk, especially for those with presidential aspirations, as Cuomo and governors of other states discovered.

"The use of the pardoning power of a governor of a state is constantly subject to severe criticism from many sources," Edward G. Griffin, counsel to Gov. Al Smith, wrote in 1928.

When Smith ran for president that year, he was attacked for his record number of clemencies in 1924: 92 pardons and 79 commutations of sentences.

Gangi said Spitzer's approach is particularly vexing to prison advocates who applauded his campaign platform of repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws and reforming Pataki's harsh stance on parole.

"We applaud the governor for appointing progressive people to key criminal justice positions in his administration," Gangi said. "But that has not yet translated into his taking progressive positions, and I hope this doesn't signal that he's taking a hard-line stance on criminal justice issues."

There are other avenues for inmates; Cheri O'Donoghue tried several ways on behalf of her son, Ashley, 24, who was denied clemency by Spitzer after serving four years of a 7-to-21-year sentence on a cocaine sale conviction while he was a student at Hamilton College.

"It's a shame because I expected a whole lot more out of Governor Spitzer based on his inaugural speech about Day One," said O'Donoghue, of Manhattan, who volunteers as a prisoner advocate.

Her son applied and was accepted for a work-release program. He'll be transferred in February to a Manhattan facility that allows furloughs and other privileges as a reward for good behavior.

"Luckily, we didn't pin all our hopes on Governor Spitzer because he's not the savior that prison families expected after all those years of Pataki," she said. Grondahl can be reached at 454-5623 or by e-mail at pgrondahl@timesunion.com.

 

__________________________

 

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2007/12/spitzer-scrooge.html

New York Daily News

The Daily Politics

Spitzer = Scrooge? (Updated)

By Elizabeth Benjamin

December 28, 2007

Drug law reform activists are furious at Gov. Eliot Spitzer for declining to grant any clemencies during his first year in office, saying that flies in the face of a promise his made during the 2006 campaign to "continue to support efforts to reform these laws."

"This is a cold-heart, hard-line approach to sentencing issues that we hope does not reflect whatever posture he ultimately takes on the drug laws," said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, an organization chartered by the Legislature to monitor conditions in the state’s prisons and issue reports on prison-related issues.

Gangi compared Spitzer to Ebenezer Scrooge before he’s visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley."

That position that is shared by the George Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance, which issued a press release yesterday that included quotes from Anthony Papa <http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/anothervoice/story/238256.html> , a drug-offender-turned-activist who was granted clemency by former Gov. George Pataki in 1996.

"I know first-hand how meaningful a holiday clemency can be," Papa said. "For the last ten years, I’ve been a productive member of society instead of being locked in a cage for a first-time, nonviolent offense, costing taxpayers nearly half a million dollars. The governor, with one stroke of his pen, can allow others to have the same opportunity that I had."

Spitzer did grant a single pardon this year <http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2007/12/spitzers-christmas-pardon.html> to Frederick Lake, a Brooklyn man who faced deportation back to his native Jamaica due to his criminal record. The governor stressed that he had acted in this case in the interest of preventing Lake from being forced to return home - not because he believed Lake’s claim of innocence, thereby injecting himself into an immigration debate (which didn’t work so well the last time <http://gothamist.com/2007/11/14/steamrolled_spi.php> ).

Unlike a pardon, which erases a conviction from the records, a clemency merely reduces an offender’s sentence. The Parole Board must sign off on clemencies, but historically it has rarely opposed a governor’s wishes.

According to Spitzer spokeman Errol Cockfield, who confirmed the governor does not intend to grant any clemencies this year, the Spitzer administration received some 333 clemency requests as of Nov. 1, 2007.

NOTE: That number is updated with information from the state Division of Parole, which is the entry point for these applications.

"We review each clemency application carefully and come to a decision on a case by case basis," Cockfield said, noting that applicants must meet basic criteria such as having served a minimum of one year in prison and not already being eligible for parole.

Drug law advocates were particularly concerned about Spitzer’s failure to issue any clemencies because it comes on the heels of a preliminary report from his Commission on Sentencing Reform that included no drug law reform recommendations.

The governor could have "sent a message" by granting clememcy to one or more offenders serving time under the drug laws, Gangi said, but his decision not to, coupled with his virtual silence on the topic in general and the commission’s decision to bypass it, does not bode well for this issue in the future.

UPDATE2: The administration also helpfully provided some stats on clemencies past, which appear after the jump.

1990 1 1991 2 1992 2 1993 2 1994 4 1995 2 1996 7 1997 4 1998 0 1999 5 2000 5 2001 3 2002 4 2003 1 2004 0 2005 1 2006 0

The above are all commutation of sentence

2003 1 posthumous pardon (use of foul language in a public forum, given to comedian Lenny Bruce by former Gov. George Pataki).

_________________________

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/29/opinion/lweb29pardon.html?ref=opinion

 

The New York Times

A Lone Pardon This Year

 By Anthony Papa   December 29, 2007

 To the Editor:

Re "Spitzer Pardons Ex-Convict to Spare Him Deportation" (news article, Dec. 22):

Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s attempt to show compassion this holiday season fell way off the mark. Mr. Spitzer’s single pardon to an individual set free 10 years ago, coupled with the fact that he did not grant one clemency, was nothing more than a safe political move.

There are many nonviolent Rockefeller drug law offenders who have already served lengthy sentences but are stuck in prison because of a continuing political quagmire. Traditionally, these offenders have been granted clemency at Christmastime.

Former Gov. George Pataki, who was known for his toughness on crime, granted clemencies to 28 of them, including me. To give none of those offenders who applied for clemency a chance to be united with their families is a crying shame.

Anthony Papa

New York, Dec. 24, 2007

The writer is a communications specialist at the Drug Policy Alliance.

_________________________

 

http://www.buffalonews.com/149/story/238256.html

 

 

 

Another Voice / Drug laws

Spitzer could recoup with an act of compassion

By Anthony Papa
Updated: 12/28/07 6:55 AM

Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer’s approval rating is at an all-time low of 36 percent, according to a survey by the Siena College Research Institute. This is a far cry from his 69 percent approval rating when he took office. The survey polled about 1,000 voters in December, of which 47 percent said the governor should become a “kinder, gentler governor.” But 41 percent of Republicans said they doubt whether the transformation can be made.

The question I pose is: “How can Spitzer counter his downward spiral and start winning back the voters of New York State?” One answer is to show the citizens of New York that, despite the negativity generated from the trials and tribulations of his governorship, he is still an individual who shows compassion for others. Compassion, a virtue found in many great leaders, is said to be not sentiment but the act of making justice through works of mercy.

This holiday season, I recommend that Spitzer go on a personal rescue mission and grant executive clemency to the large number of Rockefeller Drug Law prisoners who have fully rehabilitated themselves and already have served large amounts of time behind bars under the draconian provisions of mandatory minimum sentencing.

In granting a record number of clemencies, Spitzer would be following in the wake of recent trends that favor reducing racial disparities precipitated by the War on Drugs. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court returned to judges their discretion over following the rigid structure of federal sentencing guidelines in drug cases, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission created changes in crack cocaine sentencing that would retroactively set free 20,000 prisoners.

Traditionally, at Christmas time New York’s governor grants executive clemency to a number of individuals. Former Republican Gov. George E. Pataki granted 32 in his career, with 28 of them being Rockefeller Drug Law prisoners (point of disclosure: I was one of them). Gov. Mario Cuomo granted 33 and Gov. Hugh Carey gave out 155.

If granted clemency, a prisoner immediately becomes eligible for parole. Although parole is not guaranteed, the New York State Parole Board has released the majority of prisoners whose sentences were commuted.

Today there are almost 14,000 individuals imprisoned under the Rockefeller Drug Laws; 90 percent of them are black and Latino. Despite two minor reforms in 2004 and 2005, a welcomed first step, the majority of Rockefeller prisoners were not touched by the changes. For many who have fallen through the cracks, their only hope to regain their freedom is through the act of executive clemency.

There will be many families praying this holiday season that Spitzer shows his compassion for those who have taken it upon themselves to improve their lives and are ready to re-enter society as productive citizens.

Anthony Papa is the author of “15 to Life”and a communications specialist for theDrug Policy Alliance.

 

 

FLASH!!!!   December 19, 2007    A Call to governor spitzer to grant executive clemency to rockefeller offenders who have fallen in the cracks of a political Quagmire

 

Letters to the editor

December 14 2007



A first change in drug sentencing

Re "Justices OK latitude on sentencing," Dec. 11

Finally, the Supreme Court has positively reacted to the cruelty of a bad sentencing law that has been tossed around between legislatures and the courts for 20 years. In that time, an alarming number of people's lives have been destroyed by racially discriminatory crack-cocaine laws that disproportionately sentenced people of color. However, the decision to give judges more power to use sentencing discretion is only a first step in correcting these clearly draconian laws that were constructed because of the politics of the drug war. I hope it sends a clear message to prosecutors that mandatory minimum sentences are a part of an archaic judicial structure that needs to be overhauled in the name of justice.

Anthony Papa

Communications Specialist

Drug Policy Alliance

New York

 

 

12/11/07

http://www.blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=446&Itemid=1

 

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has acknowledged the obvious: that penalties for possession of "crack" cocaine, as opposed to the powdered kind, amount to racist law designed to disproportionately incarcerate African Americans. Despite the Sentencing Commission's recommendation that Congress repeal its racist crack cocaine laws, the U.S. Justice Department resists righting the historical wrong, warning that release of crack offenders would open "the flood gates of hell." Rather, Bush's demonic bureaucrats rush to defend the citadels of the American Black Prison Gulag, an abomination unmatched on the planet - slavery's incarnation in the 21st Century.

Change Racist Crack Cocaine Laws

by Anthony Papa

"Only the U.S. Congress can eliminate the racist sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine."

This article previously appeared in Counterpunch.

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Does the number 1 equal 100? In common math it does not, but when you are talking federal drug sentencing it unfortunately does. If you distribute just five grams of crack, it carries a minimum five-year federal prison sentence. If you distribute 500 grams of powder cocaine, it carries the same sentence. This 100:1 sentencing disparity has been condemned for its racially discriminatory impact by a wide array of criminal justice and civil rights groups. Hispanics and whites make up the majority of crack cocaine users, but the majority of those convicted under crack cocaine offenses are African Americans.

After many years of heated debate over the issue of crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing disparities, the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to ease the penalties for crack on November 1, 2007. A hearing was held on November 13 to determine whether or not to apply retroactively recommended revisions to the federal guidelines that lowered the minimum sentences for crack cocaine-related offenses. If recommended, about 4,000 prisoners will be released this year by shaving an average of two years off their sentences, with almost 16,000 to follow. In theory, it would be the largest single act to reduce the sentences of federal prisoners.

"The Justice Department quickly put out a statement saying that the proposed changes to the law would put thousands of violent criminals back on the streets."

Critics were quick to exploit the age-old defensive argument that the flood gates of hell would be opened if such an action were to become law. The Justice Department quickly put out a statement saying that the proposed changes to the law would put thousands of violent criminals back on the streets. The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys warned that by freeing thousands of prisoners it would overburden prosecutors.  Advocates rebutted saying that if the law is passed it will be a small step towards mitigating the sentence disparity between crack and powder cocaine, which disproportionately affects people of color. Even federal judges like Chief Justice Robert Pratt of Iowa, has said that talk of a sudden large amount of freed prisoners was inflated, and that workloads should not prevent creating fair sentencing in crack cocaine cases that serves the interests of justice.

Some say that Congress probably did not set out to pass racially discriminatory crack cocaine laws some twenty years ago. Whether or not these laws were created with the intention of targeting African Americans, let's make no mistake about it: it has. Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "We are encouraged by the U.S. Sentencing Commission's commitment to do what is in their power to address harsh crack cocaine sentences, and we are hopeful that the Commission will apply this relief retroactively. However, only the U.S. Congress can eliminate the racist sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine sentences and we implore them to do so now."

"Pharmacologically they are the same drug."

The unfair sentencing that is in effect was enacted based on the many myths that surround crack use. These included media stories that told of a "crack baby" epidemic in the 1980s, stories now found to be greatly exaggerated or flat-out lies. Research now shows that factors such as smoking and drinking, malnutrition, inadequate sleep, and poverty are responsible for the many pre-natal ailments associated with crack use. Criminal penalties for possession and sales of cocaine are severe. But the penalties for crack cocaine are much more severe, despite the fact that pharmacologically they are the same drug. If these suggested changes, take affect and are applied retroactively, it will do a lot to balance the scales of justice in reforming a bad law that has dished out unfair sentences to people convicted of crack cocaine offenses.

Anthony Papa is the author of "15 to Life" and a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance. He can be contacted at tpapa@drugpolicy.org This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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http://www.chicagosportsreview.com/inthemeantime/contentview.asp?c=204651

 

http://www.blackathlete.net/artman2/publish/Commentary_1/Barry_Bonds_And_The_Drug_War.shtml

 

Barry Bonds And The Drug War
A Different Look At The BALCO Scandal

 tpapa@drugpolicy.org
POSTED: Nov 27, 2007

 

image
NEW YORK -- What does the war on drugs have to do with baseball? Just ask Barry Bonds who was just indicted by federal prosecutors on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.   

Bonds is now facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Anti-doping advocates, including America’s deputy drug czar, are calling for jail time for baseball players who use steroids saying that it may be the only effective deterrent for curbing illegal use.

Let’s face it, while Bonds’s indictment for lying to a grand jury may have legal basis, the real underlying reason for this federal indictment four years after the BALCO investigation is their failure to get Bonds to admit he had used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. 

In that case a business named Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) was alleged to be distributing illegal performance -- enhancing drugs was investigated by several governmental agencies.  This resulted in a huge scandal which involved many major league baseball players and led to Major League Baseball initiating penalties for players caught using steroids in 2004.

Well now the government is ready to take down the home-run king along with the entire sport of baseball by pushing their personal agenda of a zero tolerance for drug use.

Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thinks that Major League Baseball’s rules concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids don’t pack enough of a wallop in terms of functioning as a real deterrent.  He is rooting for Bonds to be imprisoned so it sends a clear message.

Imprisonment of record-breaking hitters like Bonds will not solve baseball’s problem. I know this is true because of the failed war on drugs. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. 

It has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, with more than 2.3 million citizens sitting behind bars, a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents. 

About 55% of all federal and over 20% of all state prisoners are convicted of drug-law violations with many of them serving mandatory-minimum sentences for simple possession offences.  And despite all of the incarceration drug use and drug availability are as prevalent as ever.  Are we now going to add major league players to drug war statistics?

For the sake of argument, what if Bonds did use steroids?  Does he belong in jail? He is not the first athlete to use them and he will not be the last. The pursuit for athletic superiority through the use of chemicals has been around a long time.  Before steroids were officially banned in the early 1970’s, almost 70% of all Olympic athletes had used them.  

Is it ethical and morally right to sentence someone to a lengthy prison term for putting substances in their own bodies? The premise for prosecuting the other war with no exit strategy – the drug war -- has slowly but surely infiltrated the public’s eye through different vehicles.  

Now the feds attempt to bring their message through the sport of baseball.  Bonds joins the ranks of the demonized including medical marijuana users, pain sufferers and their doctors who prescribe opioid analgesics, and students who are forced to urinate in cups. All of this in the name of a drug-free America without concern for individuals’ rights.

At one time baseball was our obsession.  It was a sport that walked hand and hand with the American dream full of heroes of whom we could all be proud. 

Now the federal government, with its crusade against any and all drug use, has begun a new mission to alter our way of thinking no matter what the cost or how many lives are ruined. I say no to the government for trying to destroy our national past time and no to imprisoning a baseball king.
 


Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of “15 to Life”.

 

 

 

Flash!  11/20/2207   Putting Pressure on the Sentencing Commission/  The op-ed below was published in the three cities where the sentencing commission held public hearings sending them a message to address Rockefeller Drug Law reform

Buffalo NY/ Albany NY/ NYC!

 

chambers’ arrest highlights need for further reforms
Buffalo News,  United States - Nov 14, 2007
by anthony papa robert chambers spent 15 years in prison for the notorious murder of jennifer levin, whom he claimed he accidentally strangled during rough ...

no time to waste in sentencing issue
Albany Times Union, NY - Nov 10, 2007
... details of his 1986 slaying case will have no sympathy for chambers. what's most outrageous about this case, though, is that chambers faces more time ...
 

http://www.nysun.com/article/65937

'Isn't It Ironic, Don't You Think?'

BY ANTHONY PAPA

November 6, 2007

There has been an onslaught of press attention following the arrest of "Preppy Killer" Robert Chambers due to, this time, selling cocaine. One fact that has been omitted from the coverage is that Chambers now faces more time for selling drugs under the Rockefeller Drug Laws than he did for the murder he committed in 1986.

Chambers served 15 years in prison for the notorious murder of Jennifer Levin. He claimed that he accidentally strangled Levin during rough sex. Despite his horrific crime, Chambers was allowed to plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter instead of second-degree murder and was sentenced to serve between five and 15 years in prison. He wound up serving 15 years because of bad behavior, which included smuggling and selling drugs while in prison.

Now, 21 years later, Chambers has been arrested again, this time for selling cocaine to undercover officers. He faces top felony counts that can mean life in prison. As the case unfolds, it is evident that Chambers, along with his girlfriend, Shawn Kovell, who also was arrested, are both heavily addicted to drugs. They were described as "crackheads" by detectives who searched their disheveled Upper East Side apartment.

Despite significant evidence against him, Chambers has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of selling cocaine that can land him sentences of between 15 and 30 years for each of the highest counts under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. So, if he is found guilty of the multiple charges, he could be spending the rest of his life in prison.

Those who remember the details of his 1986 case will have no sympathy for Chambers who has a history of drug addiction. A year after his release in 2003, he was arrested again while driving with a suspended license. Officers found drug residue in his car. He pled guilty to the charges and served 100 days on a misdemeanor charge. The most outrageous fact of all of Chambers's cases is that he faces more time for a drug offense under the Rockefeller Drug Laws than he did for taking Levin's life.

Despite two minor reforms made by the legislature in 2004 and 2005 that slightly reduced the length of most drug sentences, there are 14,000 individuals in prison sentenced under the Rockefeller drug laws. Many of them are nonviolent offenders and are serving longer sentences than people who commit rape or murder. There is something very wrong with this equation.

For example, Ashley O'Donoghue, a first time non-violent offender sold a small amount of drugs to two students at Hamilton College in upstate New York in 2003. The students got arrested, but worked out a deal with prosecutors that gave them probation. O'Donoghue, however, is serving a seven to 21-year sentence.

The reforms by the legislature, though, did not provide the needed relief for the vast majority of Rockefeller offenders. For example it reduced the highest sentences from 15 years to life to between eight and 20 years. The reforms also made some long-term drug offenders eligible for retroactive relief.

Since 1973 when the Rockefeller Laws were enacted, we have witnessed the creation of a drug-law gulag fed by a poorly conceived law that incarcerated many drug offenders from the inner city neighborhoods of New York. This helped to create smart upstate politicians who saw the Rockefeller Drug Laws as a tool to make the business of imprisonment a major industry in their districts creating a disincentive in the legislature to reform these laws.

The recent reform did not provide funding to increase the availability of community based drug treatment. It did not increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. It also did not provide relief for the 4,000 B-drug felons: Out of the 1,000 individuals that became eligible for retroactive relief, only about 350 individuals have been freed to date because of procedural road blocks created by district attorneys.

Governor Spitzer recently put together a panel to study the disparity of sentencing guidelines in New York State. One of the issues was the Rockefeller Drug Laws. But in its recently released preliminary report, the commission failed even to address the issue of Rockefeller Drug Law reform. State commissioner of criminal justice services and chairwoman of the Commission on Sentencing Reform, Denise O'Donnell, said the issue would be addressed next time. The final report is due in March of 2008.

But the evidence is already in, and the issue does not need any more studies. It needs political will and action. The Spitzer panel must consider the families of those incarcerated, and the precious tax dollars being wasted on the court's archaic sentencing structure. Hundreds of nonviolent Rockefeller offenders in prison are serving longer sentences than those of convicted murderers.

Something is fundamentally wrong with a system that advocates serving more time for a nonviolent drug offense then for a hideous crime committed by a sociopath like Robert Chambers. On November 13, individuals affected by the Rockefeller Drug Laws will come together to speak at a public hearing conducted by the sentencing commission at the New York City Bar Association. Their message to the commission will be this: the problem needs to be fixed now not "next time." 

Mr. Papa, the author of "15 to Life," is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

_________________

 

 

Commission Urges Lawmakers to Appeal Sentencing Laws

by Patricia Willens  http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/88822

Commission Urges Lawmakers to Appeal Sentencing Laws

by Patricia Willens

NEW YORK, NY November 13, 2007 —Former inmates and prison reformers were on hand today as the New York Sentencing Reform Commission held a hearing on possibly reforming the so-called Rockefeller drug laws.

REPORTER: The state has stiff sentencing rules that don't allow judges flexibility and put many people behind bars, who might be better served in treatment programs.

Anthony Papa speaks from experience. He says he was behind bars for 12 years for carrying 4 ounces of cocaine

PAPA: These laws don't work, they incarcerate too many blacks and latinos. It's costly, ineffective, treatment has been shown to be better and we need to change these laws.

REPORTER: There are two more hearings on sentencing reform in the state. They're in Albany and Buffalo over the next week. The Commission is tasked with making recommendations to the governor in the spring. There are nearly 14,000 people jailed for drug offenses in New York State prisons. They represent about 38 percent of the prison population.

 

 

 

____________________________

 

Albany Times Union

 Time is now for drug sentencing reform 

 Wednesday, October 24, 2007

 

In response to your Oct. 15 editorial, "This time, real reform":

The state commission's preliminary report failed to address the issue of Rockefeller Drug Law reform. Denise O'Donnell, state commissioner of criminal justice services and chairwoman of the Commission on Sentencing Reform, said the issue would be addressed next time.

 I am an activist who has been involved in fighting for reform since 1985, when I was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense and sentenced to 15 years to life. I have heard the same story from several governors and the Legislature for many years.

 The evidence is in. The issue does not need any more studies. It needs political will and action. The panel must consider the families of those incarcerated, those rotting away in prison and the valuable tax dollars being wasted on its archaic sentencing structure. We are tired of hearing "next time."

 ANTHONY PAPA

New York

 The writer is author of "15 to Life."

_______________

 

Flash!   October 17, 2007    Sentencing Commission fails to address the Rockefeller Drug Laws!

The state commission’s preliminary report failed to address the issue of Rockefeller drug reform. Denise O'Donnell, state commissioner of criminal justice services and chairwoman of the Commission on Sentencing Reform said that the issue would be addressed next time.   I am an activist who has been involved in fighting for reform since 1985 when I was convicted of a non-violent drug offense and sentenced to 15 years to life.  I have heard the same story from several governors and the legislature for many years.  The evidence is in, the issue does not need any more studies, it needs political will and action.   The panel must consider the families of those incarcerated, those rotting away in prison and the valuable tax dollars being wasted on its archaic sentencing structure.   We are tried of hearing   “next time”.

 

_________

Poughkeepsie Journal (New York)

October 17, 2007 Wednesday

Panel: Streamline sentencing laws

BYLINE: Cara Matthews

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 2A

LENGTH: 591 words

   ALBANY - New York needs to simplify its "virtually unintelligible" sentencing system and should permit community treatment rather than prison terms for certain non-violent felony drug offenders, a state sentencing-reform panel recommended Tuesday.

   Sentencing laws have not received a thorough review and revision in more than 40 years and have developed into an "overly complex, Byzantine system that is fraught with opportunities for injustice," said Denise O'Donnell, state commissioner of criminal justice services and chairwoman of the Commission on Sentencing Reform.

   O'Donnell said in the report the system has become "virtually unintelligible"

in many cases to judges, attorneys, defendants and victims.

   "We could perform a significant service to the criminal-justice system if we could arrive at a consensus about how we could simplify the sentencing structure," she said Tuesday.

   Spitzer formed the 11-member panel this year to study whether punishments fit the crimes and protect public safety in New York. Besides prison sentences, the panel has been reviewing community supervision, alternatives to incarceration and other parts of the criminal-justice system.

   The report said the current system is the result of decades of "piecemeal amendments arising more often from political than criminal justice policy considerations." The complicated sentencing laws, the mix of determinate, or fixed, and indeterminate, or variable, sentences, and "back-door early release mechanisms" all contribute to the problem, it said.

   The commission report released Tuesday is preliminary. The panel will hold public hearings before issuing a final report March 1. Any significant change would need legislative approval.

   Recommendations include:

   * End indeterminate sentencing for more than 200 non-violent felonies. With fixed sentences, a judge imposes a prison term with a minimum and maximum and the parole board decides when the offender is released.

   * Allow courts to send certain non-violent drug-addicted felony offenders to community-based treatment instead of state prison if the judge, prosecutor and defendant agree.

   * Consider a broader use of "graduated sanctions" - curfew, home confinement and electronic monitoring, for example - rather than prison for certain parolees who violate one or more conditions of release but don't commit a new crime.

   * Pass new laws and step up enforcement of existing statutes to further protect crime victims.

   * Help reduce recidivism and increase public safety by expanding educational and vocational training and improving employment and housing opportunities for offenders.

   * Establish a permanent sentencing commission to advise the legislative and executive branches.

   O'Donnell, Spitzer's assistant secretary for criminal justice, said the commission is mindful of the financial impact of its proposals. "I believe we are all operating on the understanding that if we could reduce recidivism, continue to reduce the prison population," then the state could invest money into other programs to help offenders, she said.

   Gabriel Sayegh, program director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said his group is disappointed the report does not include any "substantive recommendations" on the Rockefeller-era drug laws.

   The laws, which many people have called harsh and unreasonable, were passed in 1973 under then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The Legislature made some changes to them in 2004 and 2005, but the Drug Policy Alliance and other groups have said lawmakers did not go far enough.

   Reach Cara Matthews at clmatthe@gannett.com

____________________

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/papa09252007.html

 

http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/63662/

 

Will Drug Lord Do Less Time Than the Average American Nonviolent Drug Offender?

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet. Posted September 27, 2007.

Why Colombia's top drug lord may get off easier than small-time offenders in the U.S.


The U.S. government recently praised the arrest of Colombia's top drug lord Diego Montoya when he was captured earlier this month. Law enforcement and military officials say it was a powerful blow to Colombia's most powerful drug cartel, comparing it to the capture of Al Capone during Prohibition.

Montoya, who had been on the FBI's top ten most wanted list, is said to be responsible for providing as much as 70 percent of all the cocaine in the United States. In 1999, a $5 million bounty for his capture and extradition was offered after he was indicted in a federal court in Miami.

There is much talk about how this capture will affect the drug trade and the flow of drugs into the United States. But the question on my mind is how much time will he serve when he is brought to the United States to stand trial for the death and destruction he has caused? I would be willing to bet that he will get less time than many Americans who are now serving extraordinarily long sentences, many for low-level, nonviolent drug law violations under the notorious mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Some would ask how would I come to this conclusion.

If you look at the recently completed federal sentence of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who served a 17-year federal sentence for drug trafficking, it might give you a hint what is in store for Montoya. In Noriega's case the U.S. attorney negotiated deals with 26 high-level drug dealers, including drug lord Carlos Lehder. They in turn received a package of perks that included leniency and cash payments, and were allowed to keep their drug earnings in return for testimony against the infamous general who was once a strong United States ally before he fell from grace in 1989, when the U.S. invaded Panama.

There are many Americans in prison that are serving sentences of more than 17 years in prison for simple drug crimes. These are marginalized offenders that don't have the bargaining chips to establish deals. For example, Elaine Bartlett, a mother of four, served a 20-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws for seven ounces of cocaine. Her husband, Nathan Brooks, was sentenced to 25 years to life. The list goes on and on. There are an estimated 500,000 Americans locked up because of the drug war. Many of them are serving lengthy sentences because of a 30-year government campaign to demonize illicit drug use and implement mandatory minimum sentencing.

In 1986, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were enacted by Congress, which compelled judges to deliver fixed sentences to individuals convicted of certain crimes, regardless of mitigating factors or culpability. Federal mandatory drug sentences are determined based on three factors: the type of drug, weight of the drug mixture (or alleged weight in conspiracy cases), and the number of prior convictions. Judges are unable to consider other important factors, such as the offender's role, motivation and the likelihood of recidivism.

The push to incarcerate drug offenders has been further exacerbated through the current federal sentencing law that punishes crack cocaine offenders much more severely than offenders possessing other types of drugs, for example, powder cocaine. Distributing just five grams of crack carries a minimum five-year federal prison sentence while distributing 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence. This 100:1 sentencing disparity has been almost universally criticized for its racially discriminatory impact by a wide variety of criminal justice and civil rights groups, and in Congress. Although whites and Hispanics form the majority of crack users, the vast majority of those convicted for crack cocaine offenses are African Americans.

Because of the war on drugs, which mandates mandatory minimum sentencing, average drug offenders are routinely elevated to kingpin status and condemned to serve out long prison sentences that should be reserved only for actual drug kingpins, not individuals that are fabricated to that level. It's time to end these draconian laws and implement a sentencing structure that promotes fairness and justice.

 

 

 

http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/Group_wants_Rockefeller_law_reforms/9833.html

 

Metro New York

Group wants Rockefeller law reforms

by amy zimmer / metro new york  AUG 29, 2007

 

MANHATTAN. Cheri O’Dono-ghue hopes Gov. Eliot Spitzer will make good on his campaign pledge to reform the state’s prison sentencing laws.

Her son Ashley already served four years of his seven-to-21-year sentence after being caught in a sting operation delivering roughly five ounces of cocaine to two Hamilton College students. O’Donoghue believes his sentence — meted out under the so-called Rockefeller drug laws — was excessive for the nonviolent crime of her 20-year-old, who had no record.

Spitzer established the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform last March to review sentencing policies and study alternatives to incarceration. Examining the Rockefeller laws are high on its list for a closed-door meeting this week on a first round of recommendations it will make public in October. The final report is expected in March 2008.

“I am totally for a major overhaul because these laws are inhumane,” O’Donoghue said during a conference call yesterday with members of the Real Reform Coalition, a group of advocates, academics and families fighting to repeal the laws. “They destroy the lives of many New Yorkers, like my family.”

The coalition sent an open letter to the sentencing reform commission yesterday calling for restoration of judges’ discretion in drug cases rather than mandatory minimum sentencing. They want reduction in drug offense sentences, retroactive sentencing relief for prisoners locked up under Rockefeller laws and more community-based treatment and alternative-to-incarceration programs.

“Ashley is someone who deserves a second chance,” O’Donoghue said. “Certainly the two Hamilton College boys” — who were enlisted in the sting after getting caught buying 2.6 ounces of cocaine — “got a second chance.” Police asked them to buy twice that amount, she believes, so they could make a “trumped up charge.”

Many prosecutors oppose changing the laws, saying they’ve helped reduce crime and that many homicides are related to drug sales. They worry that any repeals could release kingpins to the streets.

“Drug kingpins will rarely carry drugs,” said Bob Gangi, executive director of the Correction Association of New York watchdog group, “whereas a teenage mother employed by a kingpin will carry a relatively small amount of drugs and will likely serve a long prison sentence.”

The breakdown

Since the Rockefeller drug laws were enacted in 1973, more than 14,000 people have been sent to prison — roughly 38 percent of the prison population. Some reforms were made in 2004 and 2005, and nearly 350 drug offenders were released.

 

Democrat and Chronicle

August 29, 2007

Advocates seek reform in 'unjust' drug laws

 State panel meets today to work on proposed changes to Rockefeller rules

 Cara Matthews

Albany bureau

ALBANY — As a state commission deliberates how to update New York's sentencing practices, a coalition of civil liberties and drug treatment and policy groups Tuesday asked for shorter terms and more community-based programs to help offenders.

The organizations, which include the Drug Policy Alliance and the New York Civil Liberties Union, said changes to the Rockefeller-era drug laws in 2004 and 2005 to reduce sentences and parole did not go far enough.

"They're unfair, unjust and cruel," Donna Lieberman, head of the Civil Liberties Union, said of the drug laws. "And ... they destroy lives rather than rehabilitating them. They are enforced with blatant racial and ethnic bias."

More than 14,000 people are in prison for drug crimes, 38 percent of the prison population. Black and Hispanic people comprise more than 90 percent of people current in prison for drug felonies, the groups said.

The state Commission on Sentencing Reform, formed earlier this year by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is reviewing whether punishments fit the crimes and protect public safety in New York. The panel is also looking at community supervision, alternatives to prison and other aspects of the criminal-justice system.

The panel meets today to start hashing out recommendations of its subcommittees. Its preliminary report is due Oct. 1, and the final report, March 1.

"The sentencing commission is the best chance in many years to address the unfairness, inequity and outright incoherence of our current sentencing structure," said Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan, a member of the commission.

Schneiderman said he wants the state to expand judges' ability to order treatments proven to be effective for drug offenders and other non-violent offenders.

Members of the Real Reform Coalition, which submitted an open letter to the commission Tuesday, said they are hoping the panel will come up with significant recommendations on drug laws. They were passed in 1973 under then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to shut down drug "kingpins," but most people incarcerated are convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses. Many have no prior criminal records, they said.

The groups want the following:

  Restoration of judges' ability to decide the length of sentences in drug cases, rather than go by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, which don't allow consideration of a person's special circumstances.

  Expansion of alternative-to-incarceration programs, including community-based treatment. Treatment funding has been flat for two decades.

  Reduction in the length of sentences for all drug offenses.

  Expansion of eligibility for current prisoners convicted of drug offenses to ask the courts to review and potentially reduce their terms.

"There are many, many people still serving unconscionably long sentences with no opportunity for a retroactive review," said Anita Marton of the Legal Action Center.

But Rockland County District Attorney Michael Bongiorno said it would be a mistake to roll back penalties.

"The drug laws have been weakened enough. Any further weakening of the drug laws will only serve to foster more drug dealing and endanger the public," said Bongiorno, chairman of the board of directors for the state District Attorneys Association.

Other points Bongiorno made include:

  Prosecutors are in a better position than judges to decide who should or shouldn't get drug treatment because they are closer to the community.

  Reducing sentences for the weight of drugs people are arrested for has allowed drug dealers to run more drugs and receive lower penalties. There has been an increase in the amount of drugs being run upstate via the Thruway from New York City.

CLMATTHE@Gannett.com

 

 

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=615894

 

 

 
 
Justice reform should begin with drug laws
 
By GABRIEL SAYEGH
First published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

While New York is focused on other matters unfolding in Albany, an important process is under way that could bring desperately needed changes to the state's broken criminal justice system.

The state Commission on Sentencing Reform, established by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has an ambitious agenda focusing on criminal justice reform.

At the top of this agenda are the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws. Over the next week, in non-public meetings, the commission will receive and vote on a first round of recommendations, made by a subcommittee. The commission will issue a preliminary report in October; its final report is due in March.

The commission and its recommendations deserve intense scrutiny by New Yorkers who care about effective and genuine drug law reform.

Advocates working for real reform of the drug laws have remained somewhat skeptical about the prospects for change under the commission, and for good reason: Substantial evidence backing "real reform" of drug laws already exists.

In 2004, then-Senate Democratic Leader David Paterson -- now lieutenant governor -- released a report illustrating that New York's drug laws were among the most draconian in the country. The comprehensive report garnered the support of advocates, academics and the media. Paterson introduced legislation to enact report recommendations, but it died without even a public hearing.

Over the last 34 years, numerous reports have been written about the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The vast majority concluded what most New Yorkers already know -- the laws are ineffective, racist and unjust.

Almost all of the reports have recommended that the laws be overhauled or repealed. Unfortunately, sound research and reason have never been enough to compel Albany to act.

Perhaps this is why the governor established the commission -- to build the bipartisan support needed to enact meaningful reform. For this reason, despite our skepticism, drug law reform advocates have provided testimony and research for the commission.

The testimony highlighted four components that must be included in any meaningful reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws:

Restoration of judicial discretion in drug cases: The Rockefeller Drug Laws, which include the Second Felony Offender Law, did not eliminate discretion; they simply shifted power from judges to prosecutors.

Prosecutors have a vested interest in keeping these laws on the books so they can garner information, seek assets forfeiture and move cases expeditiously as a result of one-sided plea negotiations conducted behind closed doors.

These actions help promote the severe racial disparities that have become a hallmark of the laws: Over 91 percent of those incarcerated under these laws are black and Latino, even though whites use drugs at equal or slightly higher rates.

Sentencing reform: The half-step reforms of 2004 did not affect the people most in need of a reform -- those convicted of B-level offenses. Most individuals charged with B-level offenses face mandatory prison sentences if convicted of selling or possessing, with intent to sell, any amount of narcotic. The probability of going to prison for such an offense is greater than the probability of going to prison for a violent felony offense.

Community-based drug treatment alternatives to incarceration: In 2000, California voters passed a treatment-not-incarceration initiative -- Proposition 36. Rather than being sent to prison, more than 150,000 people have been placed in state-funded, community-based drug treatment programs, saving state taxpayers more than $1 billion.

Some prosecutors in New York argue that placing drug offenders in tretment, rather than prison, will increase violent crime. California's violent crime rate has dropped more than the national average since the passage of Proposition 36. Retroactivity: Nearly 14,000 people are incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Most should be resentenced under an equitable system that allows for treatment and rehabilitation.

These reforms fit into the commission's mandate, will protect the public and will save the state money through better management of our criminal justice resources.

If substantial drug sentencing reform is absent from the commission's report, or if the recommendations are purely cosmetic, the commission will have abdicated its responsibility in favor of the failed status quo.

If the recommendations are worthwhile, but Albany again fails to act, the report can serve New Yorkers in another way -- as a very expensive paperweight.

Gabriel Sayegh is a project director at the Drug Policy Alliance, a leading member of Real Reform New York.


 

·                                 http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1653862,00.html

 

Friday, Aug. 17, 2007

Mandatory Sentencing: Stalled Reform

By Madison Gray/New York

The most painful thing to Cheri O'Donaghue about her son's incarceration on drug charges is not the imprisonment itself, but that he is serving the sentence that should go to a narcotics kingpin when all he committed, she says, was the crime of a small-time pusher. Her son Ashley was found guilty of delivering cocaine to two college students in upstate New York in 2003. He was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, a penalty mandated by New York's controversial Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ashley is among about 14,000 people sent to New York prisons under the Rockefeller laws, in force since 1973, which impose harsh mandatory minimum terms on even first time offenders — meaning they could get the same sentence as a person convicted of second degree murder.

O'Donaghue once had hope for a positive change in her son's situation. That was because there was a movement to change the Rockefeller laws. The momentum behind that reform, however, has now stagnated as prosecutors and legislators fear that changes in the law are being used as loopholes to free drug lords. With no light at the end of the tunnel, she and other activists fighting for a repeal feel the laws may never change and many of the state's imprisoned — her son included — continue to languish in jail. "The movement is definitely stalled, and we're trying to gain some momentum again, but it's very hard," said O'Donaghue. "I never would have dreamed in the beginning of this that it would have taken this long to get Ashley out."

Right now, the only hope for a change is a prison sentencing reform committee set up by Gov. Eliot Spitzer that has only recently begun to hold preliminary meetings and whose final report is not expected until early 2008. The activists remain committed in their cause, but for now can only deal with the frustration of having a loved one jailed under what they feel are unfair rules. Critics say that the law ignores major drug dealers and only imprisons minor players in the drug trade. For this reason, they argue, it incarcerates a disproportionate number of minorities. Indeed, since the laws were enacted, more than 90% of those sentenced have been black or Latino, according to the group Real Reform New York.

Over the last decade, activists, ex-convicts, families, politicians and even celebrities have become increasingly vocal about the laws. Reforms to the sentencing structure were enacted with the 2004 Drug Law Reform Act, which allows for reduced retroactive sentencing, and at first seemed to bring the laws closer to repeal. But they have only applied to about 1,000 people and only 350 have been released, says Anthony Papa, an official with the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group committed to changing the nation's drug laws. The reforms, he says, were not enough because the change applies to too few of the people currently serving time.

"In my view as an activist who experienced the law, this was sort of a buy off to satisfy people who have been fighting for years," said Papa, who himself was sentenced to 15 years to life after selling cocaine to undercover cops, but granted clemency by then-Gov. George Pataki in 1997. "People saw it was watered-down reform because it really destroyed the movement, because now legislators have a tool they can use to say 'we have a law now, lets move on. said Papa .

Instead of new legislation, Gov. Spitzer's seven-member commission will conduct reviews of the state's toughest sentencing practices, under which the Rockefeller laws fall. But it is unlikely to bring about a full repeal of the laws, leaving O'Donaghue to wonder if a change will ever come. "These things keep carrying over and you just wonder when it's all going to be done," O'Donaghue asked. "When we get the final report? After the next legislative session?"

Activists like O'Donaghue and Papa, argue the stiffest penalties should be reserved for major narcotics traffickers, not small handlers. But the reason they have gained little in their fight is that some state legislators believe the changes in the law were enough and that many of those who have already been released are really major drug traffickers who should still be imprisoned, and further reform could prove dangerous.

"We did the reform and as a result, we provided for discretion and reductions in sentencing," said State Sen. George Winner, who explained that the changes that already resulted in loopholes for people who once controlled major drug operations. "I am not in favor of further weakening the drug law sentencing provisions. I agree that the drug kingpins should have the stiffest penalties, but some of them are using the reforms to their advantage and getting out. As a result of these things, I think we should go slow about it."

Bridget Brennan, a special narcotics prosecutor in New York City has the same fear as Winner that violent offenders and drug kingpins are beginning to win reduced sentences. "There was a mythology about who is serving these sentences," said Brennan, who was a homicide prosecutor during the height of the city's crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. "It was the image of a woman forced to be a drug courier. But when we looked at those applying to change their sentences, there were only two women: one who supervised the shipment of 155 kilos of cocaine and the other had more than a pound of cocaine in her apartment."

"There is no statute to address the narcotics trafficker who we commonly see in New York City," she said. "As a homicide prosecutor, 60% of my cases came from drug sales. I don't want to see this city again the way it was."

Until they win a change in sentencing guidelines, activists hope to win support for their cause simply by spreading the word. They hope a planned wide release of a documentary entitled Lockdown USA, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, will help restart a push for reform. "The problem is that they are using a prison cell to address what should be public health issue," says Gabriel Sayegh, a project director at the Drug Policy Alliance. "This isn't the criminal justice system we're supposed to have in this country."

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/country-in-distress-the-_b_59865.html

 

Country in Distress: The Upside Down Flag

By Anthony Papa

August 9, 2007


I am an American. I used to be a proud one. This was before a realization that hit me hard concerning the casualties of a dirty war. I am not talking about the war in Iraq. I am talking about the other war -- the war on drugs. Every day, we see news stories that expose the realities of drug use in America. From celebrities to politicians to athletes and even ordinary people purchasing cold medication, the drug war looms large.

Recently, I was invited to show my art at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The venue was right up my alley. The two-day conference brought together art, music, film and spoken-word performances centered on the theme, "A New Criminology for the 21st century." I decided to create an art installation called, "The Drug War."

The art installation was a multimedia presentation of the most compelling drug war issues in the news. Its use of visual narratives reminds us of the war on drugs that ravages our communities. The installation began to take form, steeped in a motif of an upside down American flag, which signifies the universal concept of the state of distress during war. Several irate people stopped me to ask if I had permission from the administration to "disgrace" the American flag. I told them all I had a constitutional right to voice my opinion.

About two hours later a security team approached me. The leader of the team said "Mr. Papa, you must immediately take down the upside-down flags. I have been getting complaints from faculty and students saying that you are disgracing the flag." I looked at her and pointed out that I was doing nothing wrong. My art was not disrespecting "old glory" because I displayed the upside-down flag for the right reasons. According to the flag code section 36, U.S.C. chapter 10, I was correct in my intentions of stating a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. She looked at me with indifference while the four men stood behind her standing in a military stance meant to intimidate me.

I immediately explained my position. I told her about the 500,000 Americans who were behind bars because of the war on drugs, and how this war ravages communities and destroys lives, all in the name of a drug-free society. I explained how billions of dollars are spent by the government to stop someone from putting substances in their bodies.

I looked at her and then the guards while pointing at the flags and said "I will not take the flags down."

The head of security huddled with her crew while several sympathetic professors came to my aid. A meeting took place and it was agreed that they had to take this to a higher authority. I was asked to stop building my art installation while we waited for a verdict from the president of the university. During that time, I had a flash back to 12 years ago when something similar occurred in a maximum security prison in New York when I was doing a 15-years-to-life sentence for passing an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine in return for $500. My art was confiscated by the prison guards, who told me I could not send out paintings to the free world that depicted the atrocity of imprisonment.

My mind snapped back to the present moment when one of the security guards tapped me on the shoulder. He said that a decision was made and I was allowed to display the upside down flags. I shook his hand and turned to the American flags and thought about the greatness of our Constitution, which guarantees the freedom to express our opinions, even if it meant turning the flag on its head to make a point.

 

 

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007708010304

 

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

 

Opinion

Drug treatment isn't a silver bullet

Anthony Papa

OK, so you're rich and famous and have a drug problem. You relapse and get arrested. What do you do?

It seems the latest trend in countering your likely conviction is not hiring a "dream team" of legal defenders but immediately enrolling in a rehab drug program.

Lindsay Lohan, the troubled Hollywood starlet, joins a host of other high-profile celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and the son of the former vice president, Al Gore III, who have adopted this novel strategy.

Lohan's pal, Paris, just did a brief stint in jail for driving with a suspended license after a previous drunk-driving arrest.

Nicole Richie recently pleaded guilty to driving under the influence from an incident where she was caught driving the wrong way down a Los Angeles freeway last year. She was sentenced to four days in jail and mandated to enter a drug and alcohol program.

Gore was recently arrested for speeding down a highway in his Prius at 100 miles per hour with a small amount of marijuana and a pocket full of different prescription pills. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of drug possession, among others, and was allowed to enter a drug diversion program. If Gore successfully completes that program, the charges may be dropped.

The role of drugs and drug addiction loom large over these individuals' criminal cases since each enrolled in rehab quickly after their brushes with the law.

Without question, rehab is an essential tool on the road to recovery. It is a multi-tiered, long-term process that enables changes to life patterns that typically trigger the urge to get high. This requires time and effort by the participant.

Lohan was only out of rehab for two weeks when she was busted again for driving under the influence and cocaine possession. Her father, Michael, himself a former addict, was recently released after serving a two-year sentence for a drunk-driving incident. He said his daughter needs a long-term treatment plan to successfully recover from her problems with alcohol and other drugs.

Many were quick to blame the rehab center Lindsay attended, saying it failed her. But no rehab center can produce miracles in such a short period of time.

What most fail to realize is that relapse is an expected part of recovery. Treatment is valid for fighting the demons of addiction and an effective tool in overcoming the government's use of incarceration and punitive measures in response to low-level, nonviolent drug law offenses stemming from addiction.

According to Justice Department statistics, the United States holds a firm lead in maintaining the most prisoners of any country in the world -- now at 2.2 million and rising, and last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000. Criminal justice experts attribute the exploding U.S. prison population to harsh sentencing laws and record numbers of drug law offenders, many of whom have substance abuse problems.

Should we treat drug addiction as a criminal matter or a medical problem? For most people, treatment is much more effective than imprisonment for breaking their addictions, yet our prisons are full of drug addicted individuals.

Nonviolent drug offenders should be given an opportunity to receive treatment, not jail time, for their drug use. This would be a more effective (not to mention much more affordable) solution for the individual and the community.

Our 30-plus-year war on drugs has stifled the open debate this country should be having about addiction and how best to deal with it. It is time to treat addiction for what it is, a medical problem, not a criminal one.Even for celebrities who rely on a trend to bail them out and continue driving down that road to oblivion.

Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance ( www.drugpolicy.org), a New York group working to reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition. Please e-mail comments to letters@detnews.com

 

 

Newsday

 

http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-oppap305275288jun30,0,7254904.story?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines

 

Paris' jail lessons could lead to helping others

 

BY ANTHONY PAPA


Anthony Papa is author of "15 To Life" and a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, which describes itself as an organization working to reduce the harms of both drugs and drug prohib

June 30, 2007


Paris Hilton is free. Hooray! Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience to awaken the hidden self. The 23 days she spent at the Century Regional Detention Facility was far short of doing "hard time."

But it did give her a taste of life in the gulag. In that short time, I gather she felt the reality of what it's like to lose your life as you know it. Sitting in a small cell can be a most existential existence - I'm sure Hilton saw the light.

There is something mystical about spending time in a cage. Since there is nowhere to go, you pace the perimeter of your cell. Back and forth or around in circles, all the while reliving the crime you committed that brought you there.

When it gets really bad, you start reading the Bible and praying to the Lord for forgiveness. For sure, Hilton has learned her lesson - or has she?

The problem she will now face as an ex-con is one that all ex-cons experience, and one that can lead them down the road to recidivism. For the most part, when you are released you want to forget the prison experience. You do your best to block it out. In her case, I would bet that in a week those feelings she has built up inside her brought on by her longing for her freedom will disappear.

How do I know? I did a 12-year stretch at Sing Sing, and the first day I got out I almost completely forgot all the feelings I had. I forgot about how my existence was reduced to daily routines and calculations. I forgot about measuring time in reference to the day at hand and the functions associated with it - the head counts and bells that the prison used to maintain security and order.

So, for sure, those 23 days will not mean much unless she is doing something to remind her of her experience.

Hilton should follow up with her talk that she wants to find meaning in her life. Because her jail time came from her arrest on a charge of driving with a suspended license after a previous drunk-driving arrest, it would be appropriate if Hilton now explored the subject of drugs and addiction. She would have a great opportunity to become a noted spokeswoman for those less fortunate. Think of how many lives she could save.

But let's not kid ourselves too much. Hilton comes from the part of the privileged class that most of the time has justice applied in a kinder fashion. She probably will go back to her home and drown herself in its lush surroundings and surely forget all about the time she did.

I just hope Hilton keeps a memory of the redemption and forgiveness she sought while sitting in her cell. Maybe then it will compel her to use her fame for the good of society.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

 

 

 

 

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=590779

 

Set free prison politics in New York state

 By ANTHONY PAPA

 

Monday, May 21, 2007

 

 Thousands of parole petitioners are ready to return to society as productive citizens of New York but remain stuck in prison because of the politics of incarceration. This unwritten policy of former Gov. George Pataki persists in spite of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's attempt to change the nature of the criminal justice system.

 

Offenders who commit crimes such as murder are actually less likely to return to jail than nonviolent offenders. Nevertheless, after coming to terms with their crimes, they are still wasting away in New York's prisons. Time and again, the parole board fails to weigh all of the relevant statutory factors together with the prisoner's positive accomplishments and productive behavior while incarcerated. Instead, the parole board focuses almost entirely on the nature of the petitioner's crime.

 

A case in point is the story of John Valverde, a 36-year-old Queens man who recently was denied parole for his third consecutive time. He has already served 15 years of a 10- to 30-year sentence for killing a freelance photographer, Joel Schoenfeld, a 47-year-old Manhattan man with a history of enticing young female models to his studio and sexually assaulting them. In 1991, Schoenfeld raped John's 19-year-old girlfriend. After unsuccessfully seeking help from the police -- powerless to act without the brutalized and traumatized victim coming forward -- John Valverde, then a 21-year-old student, confronted Schoenfeld. The ensuing argument turned violent and John shot and killed Schoenfeld.

 

The single bullet fired that night changed not only John's life forever but also that of his family. His mother, brother and sister have fought endlessly to free John and themselves from the nightmare of his continuing ordeal behind bars. John regrets the act he committed ending the life of an individual who took the honor away from his former girlfriend many years ago. I know this because I was with John during his time of remorsefulness at Sing Sing prison when I was serving a 15-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

 

In 1995, we both graduated from the New York Theological Seminary. I left John behind when I was granted executive clemency by Pataki in 1997. I became an activist against the Rockefeller Drug Laws making many trips to Albany to meet with state legislators to try and convince them to change the laws that had taken away 12 years of my life.

 

In 1998, I co-founded the Mothers of the New York Disappeared, a leading advocacy group consisting of family members of those incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. We pleaded our case for years before those laws were partially reformed in 2004. I have dedicated my life to reforming a system that has been plagued by injustice. Our prisons are full of human beings like John who have made mistakes and are ready to return to society as law-abiding citizens, but are stuck there because of politics.

 

In denying John's freedom for the third time, the parole board had reasoned that despite his accomplishments as a model prisoner, the violence displayed by his crime outweighed everything else. Why are violent offenders, who seem to be ready to return to society, being hit by the parole board on a continuous basis?

 

The answer is simple. Politicians and parole officials are reluctant to grant parole to violent prisoners because they are afraid of falling from grace in the eyes of the public. In 2003 Brion Travis, the New York parole commissioner, was reassigned to another department by Pataki after causing an uproar with the release of a high-profile offender involved in the murder of two upstate police officers.

 

On April 20, about 50 supporters came to Albany to rally on John Valverde's behalf. John's brother Frank stood close to his parents while he explained to the crowd how they were all there to ask the court to overturn the parole board's latest denial through an appeal. If the judge who heard the appeal decides to overturn the denial, John would quickly receive another parole hearing, giving him another chance for freedom.

 

It is time for the parole board to free prisoners like him. We cannot minimize the seriousness of the crime he committed but neither can we minimize the tragedy of his plight to regain his freedom. He is just one of many individuals who have paid their debt to society for the crimes they have committed but kept in prison because of the politics of incarceration.

 

Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org  and author of the book "15 To Life."

 

 

 

 

 http://www.counterpunch.org/papa06192007.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-papa/a-dying-wish-to-governor-_b_53019.html

  

A Dying Wish to Governor Spitzer

Posted June 20, 2007 | 02:04 PM (EST)

 

On June 21, 2007 the New York State legislative session is expected to end without any reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. To most people it will not mean much. But to Veronica Flournoy it will.

Veronica spent eight years in prison for a first-time, nonviolent crime under New York's inhumane Rockefeller Drug Laws. Tragically, at the age of 39, Veronica is now dying. A spot discovered on her lung while in prison went untreated, which has led to cancer that spread to her brain. She had a terrible drug addiction that compelled her to deliver drugs for her boyfriend to fuel her habit. The district attorney's office pressured her to provide evidence against her boyfriend to help secure his conviction. Veronica was reluctant to cooperate out of fear for the safety of her family. The system rewarded her refusal to cooperate by throwing the book at her and handing her a sentence of 8-years-to-life.

She left behind her two-year-old daughter, Candance, and, while serving her sentence, she gave birth to her second daughter, Keyshana, who lived in the prison nursery until she was 13-months-old. Her elderly mother then cared for both children while Veronica did hard time at the Bedford Correctional Facility for women in upstate NY.

While in prison, Veronica overcame her personal demons and received the treatment she needed to deal with her drug addiction. Upon her release, Veronica reunited with her family and became a central figure in the Rockefeller reform movement. She worked hard to overturn the drug laws that had taken away her life as it had the many others that shared the "scarlet letter of addiction." Although struggling with her life as a single parent and having to bear the stigmatizing label of "ex-addict" and "ex-felon," she became a true champion of those with substance abuse problems who were sentenced to prison instead of treatment.

Her two daughters, now ages 10 and 12, along with her 84-year-old mother pray for a miracle. Their lives are in shambles---unable to support themselves, watching the life ebb away from a woman who was once so vibrant.

Just a few weeks ago, Veronica appeared on camera for a moving public service announcement calling on Gov. Spitzer to keep his word and deliver the reform he promised while campaigning for his governorship. Spitzer, who recently won his bid to become governor of New York, has sidestepped this issue since ascending to office, in line with the legacy of his predecessor, George Pataki, who danced around the issue of Rocky reform for more than nine years.

Veronica's story reminds us of the horrors of drug addiction. It destroys lives. But far worse is to condemn those with drug addictions to imprisonment, while withholding the treatment they so desperately need. Our prisons are filled with tens of thousands of individuals with all kinds of drug addictions and psychological problems. Addiction should not be treated as a criminal manner. Instead, we should treat addiction as a medical problem. Gov. Elliot Spitzer who has been silent on Rockefeller reform needs to address this issue now. No more stalling. No dancing around the issue. It is the least he can do for a dying woman, her heart-broken family, and the tens of thousands of others affected by these laws.

 

 

 

El Diario La Prensa

Rockefeller Drug Laws:

Still unfair, still inhumane

OPINION - 05/23/2007

BY ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN

 

The New York State Assembly just passed Bill 6663, introduced by Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, which if enacted into law would substantially reform the Rockefeller drug laws. This bill, which I have also introduced in the Senate (S4352), would end the use of mandatory minimum sentences, increase judicial discretion, expand drug treatment options for non violent drug offenders, and allow certain inmates serving long sentences to apply for re-sentencing. This common sense legislation should become law. But the problem, once again, lies in the Republican majority in the State Senate, which for decades have closed their eyes and ears to the obvious judicial, social and financial problems of these laws.

 Legislation enacted in 2004 and 2005, which many opponents of real reform would tell you solved the problem, was is the equivalent of putting a temporary bandage over an open wound, instead of curing the injury once and for all.

 I voted for this legislation, unwilling to turn down the opportunity to reduce mandatory minimum sentences from 15 to 8 years, and allow some offenders to return home to their families early. But these “reforms” applied to a small minority of those incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, doing nothing to rectify the sentences of thousands of non-violent drug offenders still serving long mandatory minimums. They also failed to give judges reasonable power to apply sentences based on individual circumstantial evidence or decrease recidivism by supporting these individuals as they re-enter their communities. The disproportionate effects of these laws on African Americans and Latinos make the need for their reform even more urgent. Of the 15,500 people in prison, 92 percent are people of color, while studies have shown that whites comprise 72 percent of illegal drug users in the nation.

 For years, the Democratic Conference of the State Senate has actively pursued a means to correct the damage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and put in place laws that will apply proportional punishment to drug related crimes on an individual basis. I am calling on our Republican colleagues to put partisanship aside and join us in doing the right thing for all New Yorkers by enacting real reform of these shameful laws.

 Because they are focused on drug possession, major drug traffickers can easily escape the hardship of the laws by using other people as “mules” to carry their contraband. The ineffective laws also target drug-addicts possessing small amounts of illegal substances.

 In addition to being inhumane, the laws are also disproportionately expensive in comparison with community and professional alternatives, costing the state more than $500 million a year. Credible cost analysis has estimated that even the most expensive non prison alternative treatment will cost less than half that amount.

 We can argue that back in 1973 governor Nelson Rockefeller was well intentioned when proposing harsh penalties to combat the illegal drug contraband, and its social consequences. But how can we justify that decades later, despite studies and persuasive economic arguments to the contrary? We can not. Let’s put an end to this draconian punishment, let’s repeal the Rockefeller drug laws once and for all.

 State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman represents New York State Senate District 31st, that covers parts of Manhattan and the Bronx.

 

Flash!   May 23, 2007  New Rockefeller Drug Law Song on UTube

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=2030786088

 

 

 

Flash!   Rock Law Survivor Veronica Flournoy speaks out against  Governor Spitzer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g4uX7pObrY&eurl=

“My name is Veronica and I spent eight years in prison for a nonviolent crime under New York’s harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws. I spent eight years away from my family, and my daughters were left in the care of my elderly mother. While I was in prison, my lung cancer was undiagnosed. Now the doctors say I have six months to live.

There are thousands of people just like me in prison. Gov. Spitzer came into office saying Day One, everything changes. Gov. Spitzer, it’s time for real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”

 

 

Flash!   May 20th 2007 Prison Politics of New York State!

Set free prison politics in New York state
Albany Times Union, NY - May 20, 2007
I became an activist against the Rockefeller Drug Laws making many trips to Albany to meet with state legislators to try and convince them to change the ...
 

__________________________

Syracuse Post-Standard

May 20, 2007 Sunday

FINAL EDITION

UNFINISHED BUSINESS;

THERE'S STILL WORK TO DO IN REFORMING HARSH ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS

SECTION: OPINION; Pg. E2

LENGTH: 411 words

 

   The 34th anniversary of the Rockefeller drug laws passed this month without fanfare. Yet the more than 15,000 mostly African-American and Hispanic offenders incarcerated under some of the harshest drug laws in the land would surely have liked someone to notice. Too many non-violent drug offenders remain imprisoned under laws that in some cases require stiffer penalties for possessing small amounts of cocaine than for committing rape or manslaughter.

   And although almost every political leader, past and present (including those who drafted the lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key statutes in 1973), believes the laws are archaic, the momentum for change seems to have slowed considerably. Three years ago, the Drop the Rock campaign by celebrities such as hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and other efforts from lawmakers and advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, brought some changes, but they didn't go far enough. Under the reforms, which were further amended in 2005, some drug offenders with Class I and II felonies could apply for resentencing, which could make them eligible for release. Some sentence times were shortened. But many non-violent drug offenders did not benefit from the changes, and Gov. Pataki and legislative leaders agreed that the reforms were only a first step.The Assembly seems motivated to continue the work. Last month, it passed more reforms, including the much-needed provision that gives judges discretion in sentencing, which would allow them to send non-violent offenders to drug treatment programs, where many belong. The Assembly plan also lengthens sentences for drug kingpins.

 But the Senate, which had resisted drug law changes for so long, has not moved on the issue. Some critics have suggested the Senate doesn't want to change the laws because Upstate communities would lose some of their prison populations, which are included in Census counts. Communities with lower Census counts could face redistricting.   It is doubtful that senators are that callous or calculating. But whatevertheir reasons, they have not been pushing the reforms.

   The Senate and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has backed drug law reform, need to re-engage in this effort. It would also be nice to hear Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's voice on this issue; he has a history of fighting for the cause.  Next year, there should be no 35th anniversary commemoration of drug laws that have punished some non-violent offenders more than child rapists and killers.

 

 

 

Flash!!   May 11, 2007   Looking to repeat the Russell Simmons Hip Hop Assault Against the Rockefeller Drug Laws - Jim Jones new record and video Lockdown USA hits hard and send a powerful  message

 

 

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/485/turning_up_pressure_rockefeller_drug_law_reform_new_york

 

Feature: Turning Up the Heat on New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws (and the Politicians Who Fail to Fix Them)

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from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #485, 5/11/07

On Tuesday, New York marked an ugly anniversary -- 34 years since the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws were enacted. Now, three years after the legislature enacted the first, timid reforms of those harsh drug laws and one month after the State Assembly voted to broaden them, drug reform activists are seeking to heighten the pressure on Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), Lt. Gov. David Paterson (D), Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), and the Republican-led state Senate to act.

Prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimum Rockefeller drug laws now number more than 13,000, and an astonishing 91% of them are black or brown. The reforms enacted in 2004 have resulted in the release of only 300, leaving thousands of prisoners serving mid-level mandatory minimum sentences still in purgatory.

Spitzer, Paterson, and Cuomo campaigned on Rockefeller law reform, but since they took office the silence has been deafening. In 2003, the hip-hop community, led by empresario Russell Simmons, put tens of thousands people on the street to rally for reform. Now, once again, the hip-hop community is calling out the politicians.

Working with Real Reform New York, a coalition coordinated by the Drug Policy Alliance, hip-hop superstar Jim Jones Tuesday released a new rap single, "Lockdown, USA," a powerful call to reform the Rockefeller laws which has so far run on dozens of radio stations around the country.

A Harlem native, Jones has seen the impact of the Rockefeller drug laws firsthand. Conversely, the politicians in Albany have seen the impact of a mobilized hip-hop nation first hand, too, and reformers report that the prospect of a new call to arms from the hip-hop community has them nervous.

"We're kicking up the pressure now, trying to revive the Russell Simmons coalition approach to Albany, and I'm hearing that they're starting to sweat," said Anthony Papa, a former Rockefeller law prisoner turned author and painter who now works to undo those laws. "They're getting flashbacks of 100,000 people on the street [for the 2003 Russell Simmons Countdown to Fairness], and it's good if that makes them nervous," Papa told the Chronicle.

He isn't just speculating. After publishing an op-ed in the widely-read Huffington Post blog last weekend, titled "Spitzer, Cuomo and Paterson: Where Did You Go?," Papa received a personal call from Paterson's office. "Not too happy," Papa characterized their feelings about it in an e-mail to DRCNet yesterday. And word is that the chatter in Albany about it all is far more extensive than that.

"These guys campaigned on Rockefeller law reform, and now Spitzer has been in office for more than 100 days, and it is nowhere in sight," Papa complained. "Hip-hop is now calling you out, Spitzer!"

It's time for change, said one prisoner's mother. "Small changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws were clearly not enough. My son Ashley is a prime example of this, because he is serving a 7- to 21-year sentence for a first-time, nonviolent offense," said Cheri O'Donoghue, an advocate for Real Reform New York. "These inhumane, racist laws have been around for nearly 34 years. Enough is enough."

New York's Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 (DLRA) lowered some drug sentences but it fell far short of allowing most people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms, and it did nothing to increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by these modest reforms, it is clear that the recent reforms have had a negligible impact on the majority of people behind bars. Most people behind bars on Rockefeller charges are charged with nonviolent lower-level or class-B felonies.

"Given the extraordinary racism associated with these laws, it's unbelievable they've been around for 34 years," said Gabriel Sayegh, project director at Drug Policy Alliance. "We hope that this powerful song will inspire the thousands who attended the 2003 Lockdown, USA rally -- and all outraged New Yorkers -- to pick up the phone and step into the streets to put heat on Governor Spitzer and State Senator Joe Bruno -- to make them keep their word and reform these inhumane laws."

But even if the Democratic administration starts moving on real reform, a huge political obstacle remains in the Republican-dominated Senate, with its strongholds in the prison country of upstate New York. Seven upstate Senate districts held by Republicans depend on prisoner numbers to reach their required population size and would have to be redrawn if large numbers of prisoners were released or the US Census Bureau counted them as residents of their home towns.

Prisons are also a growth industry in Republican-dominated upstate, which has seen dozens of new prisons in the past two decades. It is no surprise that two of the most vocal reform opponents, Sens. Dale Volker (R) of suburban Buffalo and Michael Nozzolio (R) of Finger Lakes have 17% of the state's prison population in their districts.

Spitzer ran on his record as a crusader against waste and corruption. Now, he has the opportunity to undo the Rockefeller drug laws. But will he, or will he bow to political pressure from powerful special interests who benefit directly from the mass incarceration of their nonviolent fellow citizens? The reform community is now turning up the heat to help him do the right thing.

________________________________________

© 2007 blackandbrownnews.com.

NY State Top Pols Play ‘Silent Sam’ On REAL Drug Law Reform.

May 13, 2007 by Anthony Papa, Writer (View Source

_________________

 

http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/5249/1/258/

Governor Spitzer: Hip Hop Is Calling You Out!

 

5-09-07

May 8 marked the 34th anniversary of New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. On this day Jim Jones the hip hop superstar released his new rap single and video titled "Lockdown, USA," a powerful song calling for real reform of the laws. The song is a single from the forthcoming documentary about the Rockefeller Drug Laws called Lockdown , USA. The new song and video was released on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance http://www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/newyork/lockdownusa/  as part of the Real Reform New York Coalition's continuing struggle to win real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Real Reform New York is made up of dozens of organizations representing thousands of community members, activists, advocates, policy and treatment experts, survivors, their friends and families that have joined to reform these laws.

 


Despite a few recent reforms, which in theory would fix the draconian nature of these laws, little has been done and the campaign for meaningful reform continues. In fact, out of the current 14,000 Rockefeller prisoners, fewer than 300 have been freed under the revisions to date. It is hoped that this call from the Hip Hop world ignites legislative action as it did in 2003 when Russell Simons called on Governor Pataki to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Over 50,000 people lined the streets of NYC with the "Countdown to Fairness" coalition requesting the governor to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

In recent elections, a number of officials who went on record in support of real Rockefeller reform were voted into office. Governor Elliot Spitzer, for one, along with Lt. Governor David Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo all have spoken out for reform in the past. But now they are surprisingly silent on the issue.

In 2004, I wrote a memoir of my experiences serving a 15-to-life sentence under these harsh laws. Andrew Cuomo, before he became our state's attorney general, threw a book release party for me at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Attending the event were prominent individuals like Senator David Paterson, along with many other influential guests.

Cuomo and Paterson spoke bravely about changing these draconian laws. Spitzer, the then-attorney general of New York, did not attend but wrote a letter saying that my story was a "very personal and tragic story, like those of so many other nonviolent offenders languishing in our prisons on relatively minor drug offenses," and that it "illustrates the impact that our Rockefeller Drug Laws have had on a generation of New Yorkers. I applaud Mr. Papa's courage in speaking out and sharing his ordeal with the world." It was a moving event that generated a vision of changing the Rockefeller Drug Laws in a positive way.

I find it strange that the people who had supported change in the past have now become so silent on the issue. My question is why do politicians who use political platforms to generate votes suddenly forget their past when elected to higher office?

Governor Elliot Spitzer, does appear interested in correcting the criminal justice sector, as evidenced by his success in removing exorbitant charges on collect calls made by prisoners to their families, and his recent attempt to downsize half-empty prisons. But his laudable efforts have not cued in on the Rockefeller reform. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has used this issue in the past to revive his political career has not uttered a word about it. And Lt. Governor David Paterson who represented a highly affected Harlem district as senator has steered away from the issue. It's time for Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo to join the NYS Assembly and step up to the plate. They should remember their past intentions, especially when it affects the people who voted them into office.

--Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com. Papa's artwork can be viewed at: 15yearstolife.com.

 

 

 

flash: MAY 8TH   :  THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS!

 

The Huffington Post

  

http://www.counterpunch.org/papa05052007.html

 

Weekend Edition
May 5 / 6, 2007

34 Years of Rockefeller Drug Laws

Spitzer, Cuomo and Paterson: Where Did You Go?

By ANTHONY PAPA

May 8 marks the 34th anniversary of New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. Despite a few recent reforms, which in theory would fix the draconian nature of these laws, little has been done and the campaign for meaningful reform continues. In fact, out of the current 13,000 Rockefeller prisoners, fewer than 300 have been freed under the revisions to date.

In recent elections, a number of officials who went on record in support of real Rockefeller reform were voted into office. Governor Elliot Spitzer, for one, along with Lt. Governor David Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo all have spoken out for reform in the past. But now they are surprisingly silent on the issue.

In 2004, I wrote a memoir of my experiences serving a 15-to-life sentence under these harsh laws. Andrew Cuomo, before he became our state's attorney general, threw a book release party for me at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Attending the event were prominent individuals like Senator David Paterson, along with many other influential guests.

Cuomo and Paterson spoke bravely about changing these draconian laws. Spitzer, the then-attorney general of New York, did not attend but wrote a letter saying that my story was a "very personal and tragic story, like those of so many other nonviolent offenders languishing in our prisons on relatively minor drug offenses," and that it "illustrates the impact that our Rockefeller Drug Laws have had on a generation of New Yorkers. I applaud Mr. Papa's courage in speaking out and sharing his ordeal with the world." It was a moving event that generated a vision of changing the Rockefeller Drug Laws in a positive way.

I find it strange that the people who had supported change in the past have now become so silent on the issue. My question is why do politicians who use political platforms to generate votes suddenly forget their past when elected to higher office?

Governor Elliot Spitzer, does appear interested in correcting the criminal justice sector, as evidenced by his success in removing exorbitant charges on collect calls made by prisoners to their families, and his recent attempt to downsize half-empty prisons. But his laudable efforts have not cued in on the Rockefeller reform. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has used this issue in the past to revive his political career has not uttered a word about it. And Lt. Governor David Patterson who represented a highly affected Harlem district as senator has steered away from the issue.

Last week the New York State Assembly passed a bill for further reform of the Rockefeller Drug laws. Cheri O'Donoghue joined them at a press conference and talked about her son Ashley who is serving a 7 to 21 sentence for a first time non-violent drug offense. This mother grieved for the son she had lost to laws that had taken away her relationship with him. She asked why the Rockefeller Drug Laws had now not been a priority with so many politicians that had benefited from them in the past. No one could answer her question. It's time for Spitzer, Patterson and Cuomo to join the NYS Assembly and step up to the plate. They should remember their past intentions, especially when it affects the people who voted them into office.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

Papa's artwork can be viewed at: www.15yearstolife.com/art1.htm

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=584144&category=OPINION&newsdate=4/26/2007

 

Spitzer must lead drug law reform
 
By GABRIEL SAYEGH
First published: Thursday, April 26, 2007

 

Last week, the state Assembly passed important legislation to reform the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens, increases drug treatment alternatives to incarceration, expands judicial discretion to restore fairness in our courts and, critically, allows for people currently serving harsh prison terms for low-level drug offenses to seek much-needed relief.

 

The Assembly should be commended for passing smart reforms. But where are the governor and the state Senate on drug law reform?

While running for governor, Eliot Spitzer campaigned on a promise: "Day One, Everything Changes." Spitzer made campaign statements in support of real reform of the laws. Lt. Gov. David Paterson was a long-time reform champion while Senate minority leader. Families and advocates working for repeal of the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws were cautiously optimistic about Spitzer's promise. It seemed entirely possible that on Day One, the Rockefeller laws, after nearly 34 long, terrible years, might finally be repealed.

But in the first hundred days of the new administration, drug law reform went missing in action. Spitzer took on a variety of important issues, but the Rockefeller Drug Laws didn't even make his priority list for the end of the legislative session.

Why is it so hard to win real reform, when everyone knows these laws are racist, ineffective, wasteful and unjust? So asks longtime advocate Cheri O'Donoghue, whose son, Ashley, is serving seven to 21 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. Ashley is one of more than 14,000 people incarcerated under these harsh laws.

The answer to Cheri's question is downright sinister, but it's no secret. The reason the Rockefeller Drug Laws haven't been done away with is because of a despicable trinity of racism, cash cows and the U.S. census, not to mention the people who rely on this trinity for their political survival. From 1817 to 1981, New York built 33 prisons. But from 1982 to 2000, New York built 38 more prisons -- all of them upstate. The unprecedented prison boom was largely an economic development plan meant to ameliorate the job loss upstate. Rural, white communities were clamoring to build and staff prisons. The Rockefeller Drug Laws delivered the bodies with harsh mandatory-minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses.

The RAND Corp. and other think tanks have shown that drug use and abuse is roughly equal across all racial groups. But the Rockefeller Drug Laws always have been marked by severe racial bias. Today, 91 percent of the people incarcerated under these laws are black and Latino. It's a scenario we'd expect to find in an apartheid state, not a democracy.

Once elected, Spitzer proposed the possibility of closing half-empty prisons in upstate New York, saving millions of dollars. Many groups applauded Spitzer, because New York's prison population has dropped in recent years and its archaic prison industrial complex needs an overhaul. The leading voices against studying closing prisons, though, were politically very powerful. The correction officers union and upstate politicians have parlayed the politics of imprisonment into lucrative businesses and political careers. The prospects for reform have at least dimmed, if they haven't died altogether.

The plot thickens, though. More than 76 percent of the state's prison inmates come from New York City. The U.S. Census Bureau counts them as residents of the upstate prisons in which they're incarcerated, not as residents of the communities from which they came.

Why does this matter? According to the Prison Policy Initiative, if prisoners were not counted as "residents," seven upstate Senate districts would be 5 percent short of their required population size, and thus have to be redrawn. This means that senators in those districts -- all of them Republicans -- would lose their seats, causing Republicans to lose their slim Senate majority. Unsurprisingly, Senate Republicans remain staunch opponents of repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Two vocal reform opponents -- Sen. Dale Volker of suburban Buffalo and Sen. Michael Nozzolio of the Finger Lakes -- have more than 17 percent of the state's prisoners in their districts. Is it any wonder why they oppose reform?

Spitzer was elected on his record as a crusader against waste and corruption, no matter what powerful interests stood in his way. Advocates for drug law reform hoped the new governor would stand up to the corruption and racism blocking real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. He now has that chance, with the legislation passed by the Assembly and sent to the Senate. But the Senate, under Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, will block those reforms unless the governor gets more directly involved.

For the sake of justice, and families like the O'Donoghues, let's demand that the governor makes a priority of drug law reform.

Because if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Gabriel Sayegh is a project director at the Drug Policy Alliance in New York City, http://www.drugpolicy.org.

 

 

 

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n514/a02.html
Newshawk: Drug Policy Alliance www.drugpolicy.org
Rate this article Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 22 Apr 2007
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2007 Newsday Inc.
Contact: letters@newsday.com
Website: http://www.newsday.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/308
Author: Anthony Papa

 

SPITZER RIGHT ON PRISON-CALL FEES

Regarding "Spitzer ends charge on inmate collect calls" [News, April 15]: Gov.  Eliot Spitzer did the right thing in ending the major ripoff of families of those incarcerated.  They were forced to pay enormous amounts of money to telephone companies to keep them in touch with their imprisoned loved ones.

My mother used most of her Social Security checks to pay for the collect calls I made to her while serving a 15-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller drug laws.

Many families of the imprisoned in New York State had to make sacrifices to keep their families together through the use of phone calls.

This was nothing short of a moral crime.

I just want to point out that Spitzer, who had a steamroller history of going after white-collar crimes as attorney general, did nothing about the telephone charges when he held that position.

Maybe this was because he was bound by law to defend the actions of the Department of Corrections.

Whatever the case may be, he now shows commitment as governor to correcting the wrongs in the criminal justice sector.  Let's hope he can now help reform the Rockefeller drug laws.

Anthony Papa

Editor's note: The writer is communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Manhattan

 

 

Flash!   April 19, 2007:  Assembly Drops New Rockefeller Drug Law Bill

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070419/NEWS01/704190373/1002

 

Advocates say Rockefeller drug laws remain too harsh
By Cara Matthews
Albany Bureau

 

ALBANY — Lawmakers and family members of people imprisoned on non-violent drug charges urged legislators Wednesday to further roll-back sentencing under the state's Rockefeller-era drug laws, widely considered to be among the nation's harshest.

Changes to the laws in 2004 and amendments last year called for eliminating parole and reducing overall sentences of non-violent drug offenders. Some prisoners who had committed Class A felonies, the most serious level, could apply for reduced sentences. But lawmakers did not make changes for Class B and other lower-level felonies, said Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan. It expanded eligibility for prison-based drug treatment, among other changes.

 

Schneiderman and other lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to expand treatment programs and allow prisoners convicted of Class B felonies for non-violent drug offenses to apply for reduced sentences. It would increase sentences for violent drug dealers and “kingpins.”  

The legislation would “really change the culture around drug addiction in our state to focus more on treatment,” Schneiderman said. It would prevent the “brutal breakup of families and long-term harm done by incarcerating people for long periods of time whose real problem is drug addiction,” he added.

Sentencing reforms enacted in 2004 have resulted in the release of only 177 people, the senator said. On average, they were released 43 months before their previously calculated earliest release date.

The bill would make the following other changes:

* Increase judges' discretion and allow some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison terms.

* Set up drug courts in every county. Drug courts make special efforts to get offenders in treatment programs.

* Raise the weight thresholds for certain drug offenses so that the possible sentence times are reduced.

* Create or expand “second chance” programs for low-level drug defendants, such as the Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment program, in which offenders' cases can be dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors upon successful completion of treatment.

The legislation on Wednesday passed the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens. Senate Republicans have resisted efforts to further ease the Rockefeller-era drug laws, and district attorneys have strongly opposed such measures.

Cheri O'Donoghue of New York City, said her son, Ashley, was arrested in a sting operation set up by two Hamilton College students who were cooperating with police after they were caught selling drugs on campus. They asked to buy enough cocaine from him to make the charges an A felony.

Ashley, now 24, pleaded the case down to a Class B felony and received a sentence of seven to 21 years, said Cheri O'Donoghue, whose family also has a home in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County. He has been in prison nearly four years.

People need to take responsibility for their actions, she said, but her son's punishment does not fit the crime.

“When you look at this, you have to ask yourself, ‘Does this make sense?' and I don't see how anyone could come away from this and say it makes sense,” she said. “We all make mistakes and I think that Ashley should have at least been given a second chance. These other two kids were given a second chance.”

The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that when fully implemented, the state would save about $123 million a year due to fewer prison admissions and reductions in drug-related crime.

According to the Real Reform New York Coalition, less than 30 percent of 1,000 prisoners serving time on Class A-1 and A-2 drug felonies were released after requesting re-sentencing. The re-sentencing process is much slower than expected, the group said.

 



Originally published April 19, 2007

 

April 19, 2007

A Nightmare Behind Bars

John Valverde's Fight for Freedom

By ANTHONY PAPA

Former Governor George Pataki's legacy of not freeing rehabilitated violent offenders is alive and well in New York State. Today thousands of parole petitioners are ready to return to society as productive citizens but remain stuck in prison because of the politics of incarceration.

This unwritten policy persists in spite of newly installed Governor Elliot Spitzer's attempt to correct the criminal justice sector, as evidenced by his recent calls to remove the exorbitant charges on collect calls

Statistically it is a not-so-well-known fact that offenders who commit crimes such as murder are actually less likely to return to jail than nonviolent offenders. Nevertheless, after completing their sentences and coming to terms with their crimes, they are still wasting away in New York State gulags. Time and again the parole board fails to weigh all of the relevant statutory factors together with the prisoner's positive accomplishments and productive behavior while incarcerated. Instead, the parole board focuses almost entirely on the nature of the petitioner's crime.

A case in point is the story of John Valverde, a 36-year-old Queens man who recently was denied parole for his third consecutive time. He has already served 15 years of a 10- to 30-year sentence for ending the life of a freelance photographer, Joel Schoenfeld, a 47-year-old West Village photographer with a history of enticing young female models to his studio and sexually assaulting them. In 1991, Schoenfeld raped his 19-year-old model girlfriend. After unsuccessfully seeking help from the police--powerless to act without the brutalized and traumatized victim coming forward--John Valverde, then a 21-year-old student, confronted Schoenfeld. The ensuing argument turned violent and John shot and killed Schoenfeld. The single bullet fired that night changed not only John's life forever but also that of his family. His mother, brother and sister have fought endlessly to free John and themselves from the nightmare of his continuing ordeal behind bars.

John regrets the act he committed ending the life of an individual who took the honor away his former girlfriend many years ago. I know this because I was with John during his time of remorsefulness at Sing Sing prison when I was serving a 15-to-life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. In 1995, we both graduated from the New York Theological Seminary. Despite the negative environment that surrounded him, John managed to transcend the prison experience by finding purpose in his life through helping others. He taught religion, volunteered as a tutor for men who could not read, and worked with AIDS patients.

The hard time John served in a maximum security prison transformed him from the 21-year-old boy who had made the biggest mistake of his life into a man who now understands the horror of his crime. Apparently all inconsequential in the view of the parole board, which offered the following reasoning in John's case: "The violence displayed in this crime outweighs everything else."

Why are violent offenders, who seem to be ready to return to society, being hit by the parole board on a continuous basis? The answer is simple. Politicians and parole officials are afraid of granting parole to violent prisoners out of fear of falling from grace in the eyes of the public. Recently, the New York Parole Commissioner was demoted from his position by Governor Pataki after causing and uproar with the release a high-profile offender involved in the murder of two upstate police officers.

If we look at the history of why violent offenders are routinely denied parole we can see how it could have evolved out of the cash incentives for new prison construction given by the federal government to states that ended parole for violent offenders in 1994 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This law was devised to give states fiscal incentives to build prisons if they in turn enacted laws that result in violent offenders serving 85% of their sentences. Grants were made available for states to build more prisons coupled with an effective end to parole. From 1996 to 2000, New York State received around $200 million under this Act.

On April 20, family and friends of John Valverde will gather in front of the Albany Supreme Court in New York to rally on John's behalf, and in support of overturning the parole board's latest denial. We are calling on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who represents the parole board, to look into the totality of facts in this case so John and his family may receive proper judicial relief.

It is time for the parole board to free model prisoners like John Valverde. We cannot minimize the seriousness of the crime he committed but neither can we minimize the tragedy of his plight to regain his freedom. He is just one of many individuals who have paid their debt to society for the crimes they committed but kept in prison because of the "Politics of Incarceration."

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

Papa's artwork can be viewed at: www.15yearstolife.com/art1.htm

For more info contact Hispanics Across America -- 212-481-1820.

 

 

 

US NY: PUB LTE: The War on Drugs, Now in Schools

 

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n428/a02.html
Newshawk: Drug Testing Fails Our Youth www.drugtestingfails.org
 Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 01 Apr 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n377/a09.html
Author: Anthony Papa

 

THE WAR ON DRUGS, NOW IN SCHOOLS

To the Editor:

Re "Is This the Answer to Drug Use?" ( March 25 ):

Students are now on the front lines of the war on drugs.  Whether it be random, suspicionless student drug testing, or having police dogs sniffing around school lockers for drugs, students are now feeling the heavy-handedness of the government's efforts to keep them "drug-free."

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is trying to persuade local educators across the country to apply random, suspicionless drug tests by conducting regional summits.  This policy is unsupported by available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health.

Instead, educators should implement alternatives to drug testing that emphasize education and discussion that will build trust between students and adults.  Forcing students to urinate in a cup is not the way to keep them drug-free.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer is communications specialist, Drug Policy Alliance. 
 

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/papa03242007.html

 

 

Weekend Edition
March 24 / 25, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus!

Students on the Drug War's Front Lines

By ANTHONY PAPA

On March 20, student free speech joined the panoply of endangered fundamental rights ready to be stripped away from us due to the tragedy of the drug war. Kenneth Starr, former solicitor general, who reached broad fame by highlighting a presidential sex scandal in the Clinton years, stood before the land's highest court to argue the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

It all started innocently enough when 18-year-old Joe Frederick sought his "15 minutes of fame" by pulling a harmless prank. In 2002, in front of his high school, during a procession of the Olympic torch relay brigade, Joe unrolled a 14-foot banner bearing the words "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Soon after the cameras caught the act, his high school principal suspended him for ten days for displaying the banner, in apparent violation of school policy limiting speech that promotes illegal drug use. Frederick soon brought a lawsuit against his school principal in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, finding that the principal had violated Frederick's First Amendment rights.

The case subsequently reached the Supreme Court where Starr argued on behalf of the former principal and the school. Starr developed a legal strategy to defend the school's position that the language in question on the banner clearly went against the school's anti-drug mission. He even had former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey stand beside him on the Supreme Court steps for a photo op. Frederick's lawyer countered Starr's argument explaining that the case was really all about free speech, and not a case about drugs or drug use. Win or lose, Starr used this worldwide platform to advocate the government's zero-tolerance policy views on drugs.

Students are now on the front lines of the war on drugs. Whether it be random, suspicionless student drug testing, or having police dogs sniffing around school lockers for drugs, students are now feeling the heavy-handedness of the government's overzealous efforts to keep them "drug-free." Get busted smoking a joint and lose federal funding for education. Talk about bong hits and face suspension. Where will it end?

In the government's attempt to win the drug war, it has little regard for our precious given rights as outlined in the Constitution. Drug users and people wrestling with addiction everywhere are routinely demonized by the moral majority. Chip by chip or, in this case, bong hit by bong hit, our fundamental rights are going up in smoke. Americans across the land must be made better aware of this travesty.

Everyone who is concerned about free speech should be concerned with the outcome of this case. If the government can silence us about the drug war today, they can silence us on Iraq tomorrow and global warming the day after that.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

 

 

Online at: http://politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/4996/1/247/

 

It's Time to Rethink Drug Prohibition


Archives - Dates and Topics Online Edition Archive Mar. 12 – Mar. 18 click here for related stories: Racism, civil rights and equality


 

 

President Bush is presently conducting a five country tour of Latin America.  One of the main points on his agenda is trying to court its leaders into following the United States in their traditional drug prohibition strategies. In Bogotá, Colombia, he was greeted by protestors who were not impressed with the $700 million in aid to combat drug trafficking through Plan Colombia.   
 
Despite Bush's monetary incentives, elected officials up and down the Americas are looking at the violence in the streets and are beginning to question the failed U.S. drug prohibition model. The latest voice to join the choir was Rio de Janeiro's governor, Sergio Cabral, who on February 23 called for legalizing drugs as a strategy to fight the ongoing drug-related gang violence that is devastating his state. He expressed hopes that this new approach would reduce the violent crime caused primarily by drug prohibition and the illicit markets it spawns.
 
Rio de Janeiro has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, fueled by outbreaks of violence among different gangs, and between gangs and the police in the slums of Brazil's favelas, where urban drug lords rule. Several months ago, one of the governor's first acts was to ask the federal government to send a special security force to Rio following the eruption of gang violence that caused both civilian and police deaths.
 
"The governor is merely saying out loud what so many more think but fear to say," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Rio today is like Chicago under Al Capone – times ten.  Reforming drug prohibition won't be as quick and easy as repealing alcohol Prohibition was, but there's no hope for breaking the drug-crime nexus unless many more elected officials heed Governor Cabral's call."
 
Not too long ago, a world away, a similar call was made in upstate New York by Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, fed up by the violence associated with the illegal drug trade. He went on to say his city streets had turned into war zones. Soon after, law enforcement officials condemned him. The same thing happened to Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, when he called for legalization of small amounts of some types of drugs. Prohibitionists went into overdrive to stop him and he withdrew his idea soon after.  
 
The idea to change the failed policies of drug prohibition has been met with powerful resistance despite the devastation it inevitably brings to societies. It is time to step out of the darkness and into the light to seek a new strategy in our failed attempt of drug prohibition. We should welcome innovative leaders with new ideas that will make our world safer to live in, instead of condemning them.
 
--Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based organization working to reform drug policies, and author of 15 to Life.

 

US NY: PUB LTE: Spitzer's Prison Fight

 

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n215/a06.html
Newshawk: Tony Papa www.drugpolicy.org
 Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 18 Feb 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n000/a020.html
Author: Anthony Papa

 

SPITZER'S PRISON FIGHT

To the Editor:

"A Battle Over Prisons" ( editorial, Feb.  12 ):

We need a smart political leader like Gov.  Eliot Spitzer to correct the waste of scarce tax dollars spent on maintaining half-empty institutions.

These prisons have become cash cows for the correction officers' union and political leaders in rural upstate communities that house these facilities.

Governor Spitzer is clearly looking at the economic waste generated by the archaic prison-industrial complex.  His efforts to substitute a smarter economic approach should be applauded and given time to bear fruit.

Governor Spitzer's policy will lead to a better functioning criminal justice system that will be more cost-efficient for the people of New York.

Anthony Papa

The writer is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash!   January 2, 2007

Spitzer Should Make Rockefeller Drug Law Reform #1 Priority

        Albany Times-Union

    Put Drug Laws on Day One Docket

    By GABRIEL SAYEGH
     

    New Yorkers are waiting to see whether Gov. Eliot Spitzer's
    campaign slogan -- "Day One, Everything Changes"-- is
    genuine, or just a slogan. There are a number of issues
    that warrant the attention of the new administration, and
    reforming the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws should be a
    priority.

    The Rockefeller Drug Laws, passed in 1973, mandate harsh
    mandatory minimum prison terms for simple, low-level drug
    offenses. Under these laws, people convicted of first-time
    drug offenses receive 8 to 20 years in prison. While the
    state spends millions of taxpayer dollars every year
    imprisoning drug offenders, spending on community-based drug
    treatment is pitifully low. Indeed, treatment options for
    people with drug problems are too limited, especially for
    low-income people. There are more than 14,000 people in New
    York prisons under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Nationwide,
    over 500,000 people are incarcerated on drug offenses, more
    than any other industrialized nation (and more than the
    European Union, with 100 million more residents,
    incarcerates for all offenses combined).

    But perhaps the most despicable aspect of the Rockefeller
    Drug Laws is the institutional racism associated with their
    application. More than 90 percent of the people
    incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws are black and
    Latino, even though whites use and sell illegal drugs at
    approximately equal rates. There is no excuse for this
    disparity. With New York City reeling from yet another
    police shooting of an unarmed black man, questions of
    institutional racism in policing practices are fresh on the
    minds of New Yorkers. Spitzer should take note: Recent
    polls show that nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers believe
    the Rockefeller Drug Laws should be repealed. These
    policies, ineffective and racist, waste thousands lives and
    millions of dollars each year. The laws were moderately
    reformed two years ago, but as Senate Majority Leader Joe
    Bruno said of the 2004 reforms, "More needs to be done."
    Advocates, newspaper editorial boards, and leaders across
    the political spectrum agreed, as did Lt. Gov. David
    Paterson, a longtime champion of reform.

    Yet real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws remains
    unfinished. Spitzer can complete drug law reform by doing
    five things:

    1. Restore judicial discretion. Under mandatory minimum
    sentencing practices, judges have no discretion in
    sentencing. For example, whether the offense is a person's
    first, or they are simply a mule, is irrelevant.
    Organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic
    Bishops, the American Bar Association, and Supreme Court
    Justice Anthony Kennedy have all called for an end to
    mandatory minimums because they constitute unfair practices.

    2. Fund treatment. A study by the RAND Corporation found
    that treatment is 15 times more effective -- and far
    cheaper -- than incarceration in reducing drug abuse and
    related crime. In California, voters passed Prop. 36 in
    2000, diverting people arrested for first- and second- time
    simple drug possession into community-based treatment, not
    prison. A recent UCLA study found that Prop. 36 is highly
    successful. Some 5,000 people a year receive treatment
    instead of prison, saving state taxpayers $1.3 billion.

    3 Enact sentencing reform. The Rockefeller Drug Laws are
    draconian because the sentences are so inhumane. We need
    further sentencing reform, including reform of the Second
    Felony Offender Act, and an increased use of alternatives
    to incarceration. Eight to 20 years for a first-time,
    nonviolent offense is what we'd expect from a dictatorship,
    not a democracy.

    4. Apply retroactivity. Sentencing reforms should apply
    retroactively to the more than 14,000 people currently
    incarcerated because of these laws.

    5. Focus on re-entry. Tie these reforms together with a
    comprehensive re-entry plan, providing wrap-around services
    such as drug treatment and job training for people
    returning to our communities from prison. Help them become
    productive, taxpaying citizens instead of being a prison
    number.

    By doing all this, Spitzer can ensure that people with
    addictions receive treatment instead of a jail cell; he can
    save taxpayer dollars while improving public safety; and he
    can help end the institutional racism in our criminal
    justice system. New Yorkers will be watching to make sure
    Spitzer holds true to his campaign promises. Anything less
    will not be real reform.

    Gabriel Sayegh is a project director at the Drug Policy
    Alliance in New York City. His e-mail address is
    gsayegh@drugpolicy.org

     

 

 

Newsday (New York)
December 12, 2006 Tuesday
NASSAU AND SUFFOLK EDITION
LETTERS
BYLINE: Anthony Papa,
SECTION: OPINION; Pg. A44
Meth crackdown is political hype
   Regarding "Meth labs found across city, LI" [News, Dec. 1], it's no surprise that the announcement of the big meth bust in New York came a day after President George W. Bush declared Nov. 30 "National Methamphetamine Awareness Day."
It adds clout to the government's attempt to establish the ability to control your life through the hype of a meth drug epidemic. If you look at the statistics for meth use across the country, you find that its use is far behind other drugs such as inhalants, hallucinogens, cocaine and marijuana.The war on drugs has created convenient vehicles for looking tough on crime while hiding behind the shield of public safety. But that shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use.

 

   Anthony Papa
   Editor's note: The writer is communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.
   Manhattan

 

US FL: PUB LTE: Control Through Hype

 

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n1658/a08.html
Newshawk: http://www.november.org
 Votes: 0
Pubdate: Mon, 04 Dec 2006
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2006 Orlando Sentinel
Contact: insight@orlandosentinel.com
Website: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/325
Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n1638/a02.html
Author: Anthony Papa

 

CONTROL THROUGH HYPE

In response to "Methamphetamine abuse affects us all" by Alberto R.  Gonzales: President Bush declared Nov.  30 National Methamphetamine Awareness Day.  It is a day in which the government establishes the concrete ability to control your life through the hype of a drug epidemic.

The war on drugs has created convenient vehicles of looking tough on crime while hiding behind the shield of public safety.  But that shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use.  On Sept.  30, a new federal law went into effect that forces cold sufferers to jump through ridiculous hoops to purchase what were originally over-the-counter medications.

Customers with colds now must present a photo ID and sign a log in order to purchase cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylephrine -- precursor drugs that can be used to manufacture meth.  There are an estimated 34 different chemicals found in common household products such as lighter fluid, road flares and matches that can also be used to make meth.  Are we going to create similar laws to restrict purchases of all those items as well?

We need to invest scarce public resources into educating the public about the use of meth and providing high-quality treatment options to fight addiction, not create an intrusive public registry or layer on ineffective bureaucratic busy work.

Meth Day is another law-enforcement tool that leads to the further erosion of our precious civil liberties.  It might not be apparent now, but neither was our right to not be hassled when buying cold medicine before the law changed.

Anthony Papa

Communications Specialist

Drug Policy Alliance

New York, N.Y. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash! October 10, 2006

TASTE OF JUSTICE FAIR

In Show of Prisoners' Artwork, It's Redemption That's on Display

 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 1, 2006; Page C03

 

As visitors flipped through bins of paintings, lingering on the ones they liked, Anthony Papa couldn't help but recall what a paint and brush had done for him during the 12 years he was behind bars for distributing drugs. He had been desperate, and it was his first offense.

"Art saved my life," he said yesterday. "It helped me to retain my sanity and regain my freedom. The greatest thing for me was my discovery as an artist."


Anthony Papa, one of the artists whose work was shown yesterday, wrote a book about his time in prison,
Anthony Papa, one of the artists whose work was shown yesterday, wrote a book about his time in prison, "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom." (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

In a makeshift gallery in the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington yesterday, the works of dozens of incarcerated people from across the country were on display. There were serene landscapes and joyous clowns as well as celebrity portraits, including Tupac Shakur, Malcolm X and Ray Charles. There were also sober renderings of prison life: a pair of shackled hands, a roll of toilet paper next to a barren toilet.

Organizers said the importance of the pieces lies not in their artistic value but in what the expressions represent -- a chance to rehabilitate those who have gone astray.

"Art provides a second chance," said Dennis Sobin, director of the District-based Prisons Foundation, which regularly showcases prison artists.

Yesterday's Taste of Justice Fair also included dozens of victims' and criminal rights advocates and representatives of groups that provide services to the currently or previously incarcerated.

Among them was Rodney C. Mitchell, a District native, who served time and now helps others who have recently left prison.

As a reentry worker for the D.C. Public Defender's Office, he sees 30 to 35 people each week, helping them clear up legal issues and get arrests expunged from their records and steering them toward employers.

"We try to stabilize them," he said. "We try to be holistic."

But there are not enough services to reach the 2,500 inmates who return to the District each year, in addition to the thousands more who cycle in and out of the D.C. jail for minor offenses, Mitchell said. Service providers from the region and across the nation said they experience the same problems.

One of the biggest issues was what they said were strict penalties for drug offenses. It is the issue closest to Papa's heart. In 1985, Papa said, a bowling buddy asked a favor: deliver a small packet of cocaine in exchange for $500. He accepted and was caught in a drug sting.

As a result of stringent drug laws in New York state, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. He spent 12 years in prison, studying art and finding himself. After achieving some recognition for his work, he was pardoned by the governor.

Now he travels the country hawking his book, "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom" (2004), and as an advocate for the Drug Policy Alliance, trying to get fairer laws in place to help people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. "Mine is a familiar story," he said.

"Spending 15 years in a 6-by-9 cell, you really discover who you are," he added. "Art gives people a second chance. If you go to prison and there are no programs, you come out worse than when you came in. Why not use the prison as a re-socialization center? You have a captive audience."

Wearing a Superman backpack, Marcus Robertson, 7, flipped through a bin of paintings as his father, Vince Robertson, stood nearby. One featuring a New York cityscape caught Marcus's eye: A plane was about to crash into one of the twin towers as the faces of dozens of people ascended skyward.

"I see people going up to Heaven," he told his father, referring to the picture of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "My teacher told me about that."

Robertson, a fundraiser who lives in Takoma Park, said that his work centers on environmental and social justice issues and that he wants his children to have broad exposure.

"I came intentionally to expose my son to this type of thing," he said. "I want him to understand that it's not all entertainment."

 

 

Flash!  October 8,2006    Bartlett wins and obtains a hung jury but the D.A's office wants

to bring her to trial again!  Why not give her a break and give her a plea bargain with no jail time involved?  (which is what happened at the end in 2007)

 

NEW BREAK FOR ROCKY DRUG GAL

 

By LAURA ITALIANO  NY Post

 
ELAINE BARTLETT
Gets a hung jury. Email
 

October 6, 2006 -- Rockefeller drug-law reform crusader Elaine Bartlett - pardoned by Gov. Pataki in 2000 only to be rearrested last year and charged with hiding her murdering, drug-dealing husband from cops - won another reprieve yesterday when a Manhattan jury deadlocked on new charges.

Prosecutors promptly said they would seek a retrial.

Until her re-arrest, Bartlett, 49, had been a cause celebre for drug-law reform, touring the country with her story of spending 16 years in an upstate prison for agreeing to act as messenger of a 4-ounce package of cocaine in return for $2,500.

She said she needed the money to feed her four kids.

Bartlett toured the country as the subject of a book that became the drug-law reform bible, "Life on the Outside," by Jennifer Gonnerman.

But she was soon thrust back into the drug life, prosecutors say.

In March 2003, she married a man half her age, Deon Waterman - now serving 221/2 years to life on his conviction for killing drug dealer Vernon Dyer just around the corner from the couple's West Harlem apartment.

Bartlett is charged with helping her husband elude police by bringing him to her niece's house.

The niece testified against Bartlett, telling jurors her aunt insisted Waterman stay with her, since she needed time to plan his escape either to Canada or the Carolinas.

Bartlett, in turn, presented two witnesses on her own behalf - herself and comedian-actor Charles Grodin.

He testified as a character witness to her truthfulness and heroic efforts on behalf of Rockefeller drug-law "victims."

Bartlett told jurors she did not believe her husband was guilty.

 

Assistant District Attorney David Hammer is asking for a retrial. The next court date, before Justice Daniel FitzGerald, was set for Oct. 19.

laura.italiano@nypost.com

 

Flash!   September 26, 2006       "Have a Cold? Prove It, Then Sign Here"

http://www.counterpunch.org/papa09262006.html 

The Danger of Methamphetime Registries

By ANTHONY PAPA
Need to know where your neighborhood meth dealer lives? I think not. But the current trend in law enforcement thinks so. Six states including New York are considering joining Tennessee, Illinois, Montana and Minnesota in enacting a methamphetamine offender registry. These registries will publicly display information about methamphetamine users, makers and dealers that have been convicted of their crimes. In validating their clarion call for registries, law enforcement officials across the country have complained that the toxic materials found from clandestine meth labs have poisoned communities and destroyed property.

The registry trend follows the governmental implementation of making methamphetamine trafficking and abuse a high priority problem. When high priority is established, desperate measures are enacted that sometimes invade the civil liberties of citizens that seem to have nothing to do with the drug war.
The idea of using a data base that details the crimes of offenders is not new. Sex offenders have been under the keen eye of the public through on line registries in all 50 states for some time now. Not too many people would argue against their use in this manner. After all, we must protect our children from predators. But, the question I ask is do we need the same type of protection in the prohibition of methamphetamine?

In about 2004, methamphetamine jumped into the national consciousness as the latest U.S. "drug epidemic." With covers stories that depicted methamphetamine as "America's Most Dangerous Drug", alarmist media coverage and draconian political responses to the dangers of methamphetamine have been reminiscent of the public reaction to crack cocaine in the 1980s.
At the same time the implementation of the federal governments Meth/Drug Hot Spots program was born. It offered local and state agencies almost 400 million dollars to find and eradicate meth labs to end the threat of the meth drug epidemic. Through financial incentives, policing policies were increased to take advantage of the cash cow the federal government had created, all in the name of stopping the epidemic.

However recent studies by several policy organizations like the Sentencing Project questioned the existence this epidemic and have shown that reality contradicts many of the myths perpetuated by the media. Their findings concluded that methamphetamine is actually one of the rarest of illegal drugs used, with its use declining among youth, stabilizing among adults and demonstrating no increase in first-time users. Furthermore, even governmental data disputes the existence of an epidemic.

The war on drugs has created convenient vehicles of looking tough on crime while hiding being the shield of public safety. But that shield gets worn out when our basic rights are curtailed through its use. For example, since the recent enactment of federal laws in several states, cold sufferers now have to jump through ridiculous hoops to purchase what were originally over-the-counter medications. You now must show photo ID and sign a log in order to purchase cold and allergy medicines containing pseuudoephedrine, a drug that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. There are an estimated 34 different chemicals that can be derived from materials like lighter fluid, road flares and matches. Do we create similar laws to purchase them?

We need to put resources in educating the public about the use of methamphetamine, not creating a public registry. It would be used only as another law enforcement tool that will lead to the further restriction and erosion of our civil liberties. It might not be apparent now, but neither was our right to not be hassled to buy cold medicine before the law changed.
Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com
 

 

 

 

FLASH!  SEPTEMBER 17,2006  NYC DISTRICT ATTORNEYS OFFICE UNDER FIRE FOR OVER ZEALOUS PROSECUTION OF FORMER ROCKEFELLER DRUG WAR PRISONER ELAINE BARTLETT - 

Elaine Bartlett who served 16 years of a 20 to life sentence who was granted clemency now is facing prison again for a trumped up charge by the NYC DA Bob Morganthau.  She is currently at trial in NYC with Judge Torres the author of "Coltios Way" which became a major motion picure. The judge claimed "that this was the first time in 30 years a case like this came to his court room.  Elaine is being represented by Jessy Bergman and Marge Kunstler.  Elaines husband was convicted of murder.  Elaine knew nothing of the crime and refused to testify against her husband.  A hung jury resulted.  In the second trial her husband was found guilty.  The District Attorney's office is throwing the book at Elaine because she refused to testify against her husband.  Despite this the DA aquired the testimony of Elaines cousin who has several felonies and an open warrent from out of state.  Now the DA claims she hindered prosecution and is facing prison time and the tainted testimony of her cousin who received a reward when she called in the information under NYC's TIPS. Bob Morganthau has given breaks to entertainer Boy George and the Pot Princess, the rich and connected seem to be above the law but the poor and black defendants  like Elaine always seem to land in prison


Originally published on June 26, 2005

 

Elaine Bartlett, in jail in this 1995 photo, has been locked up again.

A Harlem woman who got an early release from prison after being touted as a victim of the harsh Rockefeller drug laws is back in jail, this time accused of helping her young lover duck arrest on murder charges.

Elaine Bartlett, 48, is accused of hiding boyfriend Deon Waterman, 23, in April after he allegedly shot and killed a rival drug dealer in West Harlem, according to court records.

Investigators said Waterman, who lived with Bartlett a few blocks from the W. 156th St. shooting, disappeared right after the incident.

When police went to their home, Bartlett said she hadn't seen him "in a couple of weeks," said one investigator. "We believe that to be incorrect."

They said Waterman surfaced again in mid-June when Bartlett asked relatives to hide him until he could arrange to leave the city for the Carolinas or Canada.

Acting on a tip, police arrested Waterman the next day and charged Bartlett with hindering prosecution.

Last year, Bartlett was the focus of a highly praised book, "Life on the Outside" by Village Voice writer Jennifer Gonnerman. Since then, the two have toured the country, speaking about adjusting to a hostile world and a damaged, angry family.

"Even the poster children for the Rockefeller drug law abuses are not poster children," said one law enforcement source.

Bartlett attracted a lot of media attention five years ago after Gov. Pataki agreed to cut four years from her sentence and grant clemency, saying she was a victim of the overly harsh mandatory sentencing provisions in the Rockefeller drug laws.

By that time, Bartlett had served 16 years of a 20-to-life sentence for selling 4 ounces of cocaine to an undercover cop in Albany. It was her first arrest.

Bartlett was 26 years old, on welfare and raising four young children when she was convicted and sentenced. She told authorities she sold the drugs to earn an extra $25 for her kids.

The Rockefeller laws required those convicted of selling more than 2 ounces of drugs or possessing more than 4 ounces to serve a minimum of least 15 years to life, regardless of whether they were drug kingpins or first offenders like Bartlett.

 

 

Flash!  JULY 31, 2006 Special Narcotics Prosecutors  Report Dismantled !

 A new report  titled "Unintendent Consequences" which by the way is a rip off of the title of our  anti -Rockefeller Drug Law film that we produced in 2004 is being questioned about its validity.  Read more below

 

 

Newsday.com: Long Island News, Sports, Entertainment

 
 

The state should target the real drug kingpins

BY ANTHONY PAPA
Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based organization working to reform drug policies, and author of "15 to Life."

July 26, 2006

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.

There are thousands of defendants just like O'Donoghue, whom prosecutors claim are kingpins one day and then, through plea negotiations, kingpins no more.

I went through the same experience in 1984 when I was arrested for the sale of 4 ounces of cocaine. A Westchester assistant district attorney claimed I was a major kingpin. But in the months that followed he offered me a plea bargain of three years to life. He told me if I refused the offer I would not see my 7-year-old daughter until she was 22 years old. This really frightened me, and I did not want to leave my family alone.

I decided to go to trial and was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. In 1997, after serving 12 years, I was freed by Gov. George Pataki through executive clemency.

Recently, a report released by Bridget Brennan, New York City's special narcotics prosecutor, proclaimed that kingpins and people convicted of high-level drug offenses are being released under the new Rockefeller Drug Law revisions. The report, titled "The Law of Unintended Consequences," is a lopsided review of the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004. The modest changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws have allowed approximately 1,000 people convicted of A-1 and A-2 drug felonies to apply for resentencing. The controversial findings in the report bolster Brennan's final conclusions: a clarion call for a kingpin statute and opposition to any additional reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Critics quickly questioned the validity of the report, claiming that it contained skewed data and its creation was politically motivated.

The report is questionable in many aspects, but I agree with Brennan on one point: New York needs a kingpin statute. Allowing prosecutors to define this term has meant that people like O'Donoghue and me are kingpins one day but not the next. New York needs a clear and reasonable kingpin statute that can be applied to real kingpins - bona fide major traffickers - not people convicted of low-level offenses. The kingpin statute that Brennan calls for is both unreasonable and incompatible with justice, because it is so broad.

Brennan's report highlighted 84 drug cases handled by her office, with 65 applicants receiving judicial relief under the new law. Contrary to Brennan's tabloidlike insinuation that the prison gates just opened up, each prisoner seeking resentencing had to go through a lengthy application process in order to see a judge for resentencing.

Right now there are almost 4,000 B-level felons serving time in New York State for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses for small amounts of drugs. Many of the defendants have drug-addiction problems. These thousands of offenders are not classified as kingpins. So why would Brennan actively oppose reforms to release them? It costs taxpayers millions of dollars to incarcerate these people when community-based treatment costs less and has proved more effective than incarceration in treating addiction.

Brennan needs to be reminded that the governor, State Senate and Assembly leaders agreed reforms were necessary to equally balance the scales of justice in applying the law with the needs of protecting our communities.

To cause a panic by releasing a questionable report is nothing more than additional punishment for those incarcerated and an underhanded political tactic to stop further needed reform. If Brennan wants a kingpin statute, let's fashion one for real kingpins, not for the low-level offenders.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

 

 
NY Post teams up with Special Narcotics Prosecutor to stop further Rockefeller reforms
DOPEY LAW FREES WORST DRUG THUGS
By BRAD HAMILTON and SUSANNAH CAHALAN
June 18, 2006 -- Dozens of hard-core dope dealers who asked for early release under drug-law reform are back on the streets, says Manhattan 's top narcotics prosecutor, who is set to put out a damning report on the alarming consequences of softening the old Rockefeller drug laws.
The new guidelines have opened the floodgates for New York 's most notorious coke and heroin felons in the last year and a half.
Of the 84 who asked for a break, 39 are out, including a suspected killer, two kingpins and a Colombian cartel associate, each of whom helped spread drugs across Manhattan .
They've all been freed since January 2005, after state lawmakers passed a measure intended to help first-time nonviolent drug convicts - cutting penalties for low-level offenders who got overly harsh sentences.
Addicts and small-time dealers had been treated the same as major traffickers under the Rockefeller laws of 1973, sometimes receiving life sentences for minor convictions.
But the Drug Reform Act of 2004 gave inmates a shot at having their time trimmed. Prosecutors protested.
Now all types of drug offenders, including so-called A-1 violent felons serving terms up to 25 years to life, are swamping the courts with requests to get out early.
They get that chance due to a fatal flaw in the law - which allows any first-time drug offender, even a kingpin or a killer, to apply for a sentence reduction.
Legislators tried to prevent the setting free of such offenders by requiring that each appeal be heard by the original sentencing judge - as he or she might know best who should get a break.
But because of retirements on the bench, many cases are being heard by new judges unfamiliar with the original crimes.
Bridget Brennan, the city's special narcotics prosecutor, said the Rockefeller laws needed to be reformed because minor offenses led to life sentences.
"The motivation for the change was pure, but I don't think the legislators studied this group of offenders," said Brennan, who is preparing a report. "The ones who got the greatest benefit clearly were not the intended beneficiaries of this reform."
The group of recently freed dealers includes:
* Luis Rivera, a high-ranking member of a Lower East Side gang who was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1990; he was released Feb. 27.
Rivera's operation sold 10,000 glassine envelopes of heroin a day under the brand name Black - and wreaked devastation on the neighborhood.
* Charles Greene, the leader of a drug organization whose crack was so popular that buyers lined up 50 deep at two locations on West 111th Street .
Greene, found with a shotgun and two handguns when he was arrested in 1990, got 18 years to life, but his sentence was reduced to 16 years and he was released July 18.
* Enmanuel Pacheco, a bail-jumping thug from Brooklyn who dealt coke and got out last Aug. 23, despite being implicated in a drive-by murder that prosecutors didn't pursue because of his 15-years-to-life sentence in 1993 for multiple drug convictions.
* Leticia Muneton, arrested near Macy's after coordinating the delivery of $43 million worth of cocaine trucked in from Dallas , got out July 12, after serving just six years of a 15-to-life sentence.
Additional reporting by Brian Hamacher
brad.hamilton@nypost.com
 

Revised New York Drug Law Freed Kingpins, Study Says - New York Times

A special prosecutor said that revisions in the Rockefeller drug laws benefited major drug traffickers more than the low-level offenders they were supposed ...
www.nytimes.com/2006/06/27/nyregion/27report.html - Similar pages

 

From nytimes.com: A year and a half after the New York Legislature revised the drug laws in an effort to reduce harsh prison sentences for low-level offenders, a study by Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan, examined 84 drug offenders prosecuted by her office who have asked for resentencing since the laws were changed in 2004. The offenders had been convicted of possessing or selling enough hard drugs to make them eligible for sentences of at least 15 years to life.
The study found that judges granted lower sentences to 65 of those prisoners, and 22 of them, or about 34 percent, were either what she called "kingpins," leaders of international drug organizations, or "major traffickers," that is, leaders of local drug operations that moved large quantities of narcotics. Of the kingpins and major traffickers, 16 were granted relief from lifetime parole, and four of them have been released, she said.
The study looked only at those cases handled by her office, which accounted for about a quarter of the prisoners released statewide since the 2004 reforms. Advocates of the reforms said yesterday that because the special prosecutor was charged with handling the most serious cases, the study was somewhat skewed. Still, the study offers the first prosecutor's perspective of how the reforms have played out at a time when legislators are still debating whether they went too far or whether to relax the sentencing laws even further. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
______________________
 

 

Tallahassee Democrat

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?

AID=/20060715/OPINION05/607150311/1006/OPINION

Flash!  July 15, 2006
Even stars fall victim to drug laws: No Walk in the Ball Park For Dwight Gooden

Watching the Mets-Red Sox series recently, I noticed they replayed clips of Dwight Gooden in his golden years as a star pitcher.

I could not help think about his sentencing to jail in April and how his life has turned toward tragedy. I was very sad. Not because of what he did, but because of what the system of justice has done to him.

 
Gooden is serving a 366-day sentence for violating his probation by using cocaine. This is the bottom line.

But Gooden has a medical problem - a very bad addiction to an illegal drug. His struggles with drugs and alcohol have been well-documented. But the obvious misfortune is that, instead of being treated as someone with a medical condition, he is being treated like a criminal.

Americans across the country partake daily in the ritual of escaping reality by getting high, by legal or illegal means. Addiction is a serious problem. But to treat it strictly punitively will not alleviate its root causes.

What moved me was that Dwight Gooden chose to give up his life as a free man. Faced with a system of justice that has little remorse for drug users, Gooden's back was against the wall when he made his decision to opt for the 366-day sentence. It was either that or face probation with the stipulation that any violation could lead to a five-year sentence.

After just 10 days in a cell at a reception center in Lake Butler, he professed in an interview that he would rather be shot than jailed again. The prison experience had gotten to him. Some might say that the institutionalization of addicts such as Gooden is a sure cure to the drug problem. We might want to get a second opinion, though. Maybe we can ask a few prime suspects of drug addiction, such as Rush Limbaugh or maybe Patrick Kennedy, who both recently had their own eye-opening experiences with addiction.

The question we should be asking is when will we as a society appropriately respond to individuals with addictions? Instead of giving draconian sentences for snorting powder or popping pills, we should be thinking of alternative solutions.

Now Gooden is sitting in his cell, reliving his crime, thinking about the family and life he left behind.

I know the regrets that Gooden is going through.

In 1985, I too had an addiction. In order to support my cocaine habit I agreed to deliver an envelope of 4 ounces of cocaine for $500. I was caught and was offered a plea deal that would carry a sentence of three years. Unlike Gooden, I was afraid of going to jail and leaving behind my wife and young daughter. So I went to trial and was slapped with a 15-years-to-life sentence under New York's ultra-harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws.

While I was in Sing Sing, I watched Gooden pitch. Every pitch he made was on the money, leading the Mets to a world championship in 1986. He was a hero to the blacks and Latinos that were sitting around the television, cheering him on. Many of them were sitting in prison, serving draconian sentences under the drug laws. None of them possessed the fastball this superstar had, but they shared his life-defeating addiction.

The war on drugs has fueled the debate on addiction. But it also has brought the demonization that allows drug users to join the other criminals who fill our prisons. Gooden, like myself and others with substance-abuse problems, is a human being. We make mistakes. But, when society attempts to lock its way out the problem of addiction, everyone loses.

Anthony Papa is the author of “15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom" and a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org). Contact him at tpapa@drugpolicy.org

 

 

Flash! June 17 2006  Legalization of  Drugs called for by Erie County Executive

 
 
Giambra is Right; New Approach Needed to Drug War
Jun 17, 07:44 AM


By Nicolas Eyle
After more than 35 years of fighting the current war on drugs, the latest excuse for drugs being cheaper, purer and more available than ever is that the police aren't filling out the paperwork correctly. ("How effective is drug war?" May 24)
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller told us that we could put a stop to this drug business if only we had tough laws. The threat of life in prison would cause smaller dealers to turn in those above them in exchange for lighter sentences, and soon all the dealers would be in prison. We filled the prisons, but it had no effect on drug dealing.
Then we heard that if only we had more prison space, we could lock these drug dealers up, and that would be the end of the drug trade. Under Gov. Mario Cuomo, New York tripled the size of its prison system.
Today those prisons are overcrowded, mostly with nonviolent drug offenders, and there isn't a maximum-security prison in the state that manages to keep drugs away from the inmates. The problem is so common that President Bill Clinton proposed a law that would mandate drug testing for inmates before they could be released.
Now we hear that the police still haven't got the hang of the paperwork. How many more years can we afford to have our cities destroyed, our children exposed to these dangerous substances, our families broken up, our court system clogged, our tax dollars wasted and our civil rights eroded to fight the failed war on drugs?
We've spent billions of dollars on drug prohibition in New York State . What's the result? Drugs went from being a small problem confined, for the most part, to a few jazz musicians and some experimenting college students, to a common commodity in our schools.
Erie County Executive Joel Giambra made a wise suggestion when he said we should look into the idea of drug legalization. After all, everything we come into contact with in America is regulated and controlled.
The chair you are sitting on passed inspection and met some standards. As did the car you drive, the food you eat, the TV you watch.
Everything is regulated -- everything that is, but potentially highly dangerous drugs, which we have, by declaring them illegal, surrendered our ability to regulate. We have turned control of these substances over to organized crime.
Legalization doesn't mean we should put barrels of crack cocaine on the sidewalk for people to help themselves from. It doesn't mean there would be heroin vending machines in our schools. It doesn't mean airline pilots should fly stoned. On the contrary. It means regulation and control.
We owe it to ourselves to look at alternatives to this obviously failed policy we've lived with for more than 35 years. We need to understand that more of the same is just not going to work. Plan A has failed; Buffalo needs to find a Plan B.
Nicolas Eyle is executive director of Reconsider, a Syracuse- based drug policy organization.
(c) 2006 Buffalo News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

 

US NY: PUB LTE: Don't Misuse the Law to Punish Kingpins

 

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n1092/a04.html
Newshawk: Drug Policy Alliance www.drugpolicy.org
 Votes: 1
Pubdate: Sun, 13 Aug 2006
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n942/a04.html
Author: Anthony Papa

 

DON'T MISUSE THE LAW TO PUNISH KINGPINS

To the Editor:

Re "Setting Kingpins Free," by Leslie Crocker Snyder ( Op-Ed, July 16 ):

In 1984, I was deemed a "drug kingpin" by the Westchester District Attorney's Office when I was arrested for a four-ounce sale of cocaine.  When the facts came out, it was obvious that I was no kingpin, but instead a low-level drug offender.  But I was still sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws when I rejected a plea bargain.  After serving 12 years, I was granted clemency by Gov.  George E.  Pataki.

Recently, a report released by Bridget G.  Brennan, New York City's special prosecutor for narcotics, proclaimed that high-level drug offenders are being released under the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004.  Ms.  Brennan called for a kingpin statute.

I agree.  We do need a kingpin statue that would be applied to major traffickers.  But it should not be used as a prosecutorial tool to encourage sentencing pleas from defendants like me.

There are hundreds of low-level, nonviolent drug law offenders stuck in prison who deserve to have a chance to regain their freedom.  Most have served a tremendous amount of time and are eligible for relief under the changes.  They remain jailed because of the "kingpin" rationale that has become a standard response by district attorneys to block applications for re-sentencing under the new reforms.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer, a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author of a book about his experience in prison. 
 

 

 

Flash June 7, 2006      No Reforms  for Rockefeller  Drug Laws this this session!
 
Copyright 2006 Post-Standard
                              All Rights Reserved.
                     The Post-Standard ( Syracuse , New York )
 
                             June 7, 2006 Wednesday
                                 FINAL EDITION
 
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. A12
 
LENGTH: 343 words
 
HEADLINE: STILL WAITING;
PROSPECTS DIM FOR MORE ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAW REFORM
 
BODY:
 
   Remember the Rockefeller Drug Laws? Harsh penalties for even low-level drug offenders are still in place, though many lawmakers in Albany seem to have forgotten about the issue.
 
   Reforms in 2004 and 2005 tinkered with the 1970s-era laws. But mandatory sentences remain, along with rules that limit the power of judges to order drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
 
   Last year, despite reforms that ended life sentences and allowed some appeals, more nonviolent drug offenders were sent to prison than the year before
- 5,835, compared to 5,657, according to The Correctional Association of New York.
 
   It costs New York taxpayers about $32,000 per year to maintain an inmate in state prison. Outpatient drug treatment costs no more than $4,500 per person.
Even a full-time residential treatment program costs $11,000 less than prison.
 
   The most damning statistic about the Rockefeller Drug Laws is their racial
consequence: While the majority of drug users and sellers are white, 91 percent of drug offenders in state prison are black or Hispanic.
 
   Last month, the state Assembly approved legislation that would allow lower-level offenders to appeal their sentences - and return discretion to the judges, where it belongs. The measure also increases penalties for major drug traffickers, those who sell to children, and dealers caught with a loaded handgun.
 
   It's a good bill. But it's a "one-house" bill, with no prospect of Senate action before adjournment, scheduled for later this month. And lame-duck Gov.
George Pataki has shown little interest in the subject.
 
   When the initial reforms were approved in 2004, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said: "There is more to be done, and we're going to get there." Last month he would only offer this watered-down nod toward further reform: "We are willing to address that and review that and to make sure that justice is done."
 
   Recent polls indicate voters approve of drug treatment as an alternative to prison, and support candidates who take the same view. It looks like the people are ahead of some politicians.
 
LOAD-DATE: June 8, 2006
 
-_________________________________
 
 

 

FLASH!  June 1, 2006
Deported Rockefeller Drug Law offenders protest in Dominican Republic!
 
Dominican deportees protest against U.S. drug law
SANTIAGO . - "Dominican Republic does not make drugs" was the chant from dozens of people as they marched for over an hour yesterday on this city’s main streets, to demand the rights of those deported from the United States.
Jose Manuel Montesino headed the defense of the deportees, who understands that society must treat them with equality and not see them with the label of criminal, from having been deported from the United States .
The march, which began in the sector El Ejido, was also staged to reject the Rockefeller Law, established in New York in 1973 and which stiffens the penalties against drug dealers.
After defying the extreme heat and walking the avenues with their hands and feet tied and with their mouth sewn shut, they reached the esplanade of the city’s icon El Monumento, where Montesino again voiced demands in defense of the deportees, alleging that these Dominican citizens are subjected to mistreatments.
“The first voice raised against the oppression and the discrimination of the natives was raised by Fray Antón de Montesino, in 1511, and today a voice rises from another Montesino, elevating the demands for justice and equality for all human beings, especially for we Dominicans who are unjustly pointed to, in a discriminatory manner, by a law that does not go in accordance with humanity and human rights," he said.
Montesino clarified that their position is neither against the United States , nor its laws in general, but explained that in fact it is against the Nelson Rockefeller Law, as in his view it is an unfair law for Dominicans.
In the march, the second held in three months, Montesino received the support  several institutions and deportees who are against this law.
"They want to make the world think that we Dominicans are criminal and that we are owners of drugs and it is not so. I, Jose Manuel Montesino, can say to the entire world that we Dominicans do not cultivate drugs, nor do we process drugs,” he said.
The march’s promoter also thanked president Leonel Fernandez for his support and the freedom of __expression to demand their rights.
Another demonstrator who spoke for the deportees was René Vicioso, who returned from the United States in 2004, after serving a 17 year sentence for drug convictions and who heads a foundation to benefit those Dominicans.
He said that the idea is to make the country and the Cibao region understand that the deportees are willing to rejoin the society as any other person.
 
 -----------------
 

 

 

 

Flash!   May 15, 2005   David Soares American Hero!

 

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/435/davidsoares.shtml
 
 
Politics: Albany DA Ignites Firestorm By Calling Drug War "Lucrative" 5/12/06
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/435/davidsoares.shtml
Media links and letter-writing information appears below.
Albany, New York, District Attorney David Soares has ignited a firestorm of criticism over remarks he made at last week's International Harm Reduction Association conference in Vancouver. But given the local response to the controversy, it may be his critics who are feeling like they got their fingers burned.
 
 
Soares' remarks were unsurprisingly uncontroversial in Vancouver, but that wasn't the case back home in upstate New York. "The attempt to engage in cleaning the streets of Albany one twenty-dollar sale on the street at a time is a failed policy," said Soares, who was elected to office as a critic of the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. The only reason the drug war continues is "because it provides law enforcement officials with lucrative jobs," he added. It was that last remark that especially irked local law enforcement officials and political figures.
Both Albany Police Chief James Tuffey and Albany County Sheriff James Campbell ripped into Soares after his Vancouver speech was reported in New York. County Commissioner Ann Comella offered up a no-confidence resolution calling on Soares to apologize for his remarks because they supposedly insulted police officers.
Early this week, Soares apologized for appearing to attack police officers, but clarified that he was really attacking a failed drug policy. He was not saying that police were in it to get rich, he explained. "I am saying we have an incredibly expensive criminal justice system that continues to expand as a result of laws we pass." And while he expressed admiration for police, he stood firm on the larger issue. "I stand by my statements; we are losing this drug war. We are losing it ultimately here on the streets."
Soares supporters from around the country were quick to respond. "I spent 34 years as a cop and saw firsthand the damage caused by the war on drugs, the cost to individual lives, public safety and community health, not to mention the squandered taxpayer money," said Norm Stamper, former chief of police for the city of Seattle and a member of the advisory board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "We all owe David Soares our respect and admiration for speaking the truth. We need more public servants like David, especially in the criminal justice system," said Stamper, "It's not uncommon to be castigated or criticized for speaking an unpopular truth."
"Without courageous, principled leadership, the US will never develop the workable, effective drug policies that we need to address the impact of drug abuse on our families and communities," says Gabriel Sayegh, Director, State Organizing and Policy Project for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Albany County and New York State should be proud to have a district attorney who has the intelligence and vision to demand effective alternatives to failed drug war policies," said Sayegh.
Soares also scored the backing of the Albany Times Union, which in an editorial castigated his critics. "What neither Mr. Tuffey nor Albany County Sheriff James Campbell nor any other aggrieved party can do is muster much of a counterargument to Mr. Soares' larger point," the Times pointed out. "The facts are on his side when he says, 'My advice to Canada is stay as completely far away from US drug law policy as possible.' How have Draconian laws that disproportionately leave blacks and Hispanics serving excessively long prison sentences stopped drug abuse and all the problems that come with it? What can Mr. Soares' critics say to rebut his view that it's a fear of reform that keeps these laws on the books?"
At the Monday night commission meeting where Soares was supposed to be censured, it was instead a Soares pep rally. Scores of Soares supporters turned out, and more than 20 took the opportunity to tell the county legislature he has their backing.
Shawn Morris, president of the Albany Common Council, was one of them. "The real subjects of David Soares' remarks were lawmakers who are afraid to make a change," he said.
Chief Tuffey has now agreed to meet with Soares, and Commissioner Comella decided Monday evening that her no-confidence resolution wasn't really necessary. The prohibitionist attack dogs came after Soares, but in a sign of changing times, they are the ones ending up licking their wounds.
Below are links to news reports we know of about the controversy:
Governor Faults Soares' Remarks, Albany Times Union, 5/10
When the Law is a Loon, New York Post, 5/10
Soares Apologizes to Police Officers, Albany Times Union, 5/8
Head Start on 2008 for Soares, Albany Times Union, 5/9
Soares Sets the Record Straight, WTEN-TV, 5/9
Sorry Time for $oros DA, New York Post, 5/9
Soares Discusses Drug Policy, Capital News 9, 5/9
Soares Returns, Welcomes Controversy, WTEN-TV, 5/8
District Attorney David Soares Speaks Out, Capital News 9, 5/7
Soares Back in Albany, Capital News 9, 5/6
A Call for David Soares to Resign, WTEN-TV, 5/5
Police Officers Union President Speaks Out on Soares, Capital News 9, 5/5
Prosecutor Urges Political Reform, Times Union, 5/5
Soares Responds to Criticism, Capital News 9, 5/4
Soares Under Fire for Drug Policy Comments, Capital News 9, 5/4
and letter/feedback info:
Albany Times Union, letters to the editor: http://www.timesunion.com/forms/emaileditor.asp
New York Post, letters to the editor: letters@nypost.com or http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/letters/letters_editor.htm
WTEN-TV: comments to news@wten.com
Capital News 9: news@capitalnews9.com

 

 

Flash!  May 8 2006 On the  33rd Anniversary of Rockefeller Drug Laws the NYS Assembly drops new reform bill!

 

New York State Assembly to Take Up Bill on Monday, May 8 to Further Reform Rockefeller Drug Laws
Bill Would Expand Treatment, Continue Sentencing Reform and Increase Judicial Discretion

Advocates, Family Members Will Be in Albany to Demand Meaningful Reform to New York’s Draconian Drug Laws

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 5, 2006. Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Gabriel Sayegh 646-335-2264

On Monday, May 8th, the New York State Assembly is introducing legislation that would further reform New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, some of the nation’s harshest drug laws. Advocates and family members affected by these draconian laws will be in Albany demanding meaningful reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Assembly bill, A-8098, introduced by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubrey, would expand drug treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, and continue sentencing reform by allowing certain people serving time for "B" felonies to apply for resentencing under the new reforms - a key piece missing in the 2004/2005 changes. The bill would also increase judicial discretion and allow for some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison.

New York’s Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 (DLRA) lowered some drug sentences but it fell short of allowing most people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms, and did not increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by the modest reforms, they are clear that the latest reforms have no impact on the majority of people behind bars. Most people behind bars on Rockefeller charges are lower-level or class-B felons.

"The two small reforms initiated by the legislature have not provided the needed relief for the vast majority of Rockefeller offenders. My son Ashley is a prime example of this. He is serving a 7 to 21 year sentence for a first time nonviolent offense," said Cheri O’Donoghue. "Our legislative leaders need to pass meaningful reform that will provide relief to the thousands of B-class felons serving time under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.  In the long run, we need the full repeal of these inhumane drug laws." 

What: Press conference to announce Assembly Bill A-8098
When: Monday, May 8, 2006 at 12:45 pm
Where: Speakers Conference Room
Who: Legislators, Cheri O’Donoghue, mother of inmate serving 7 to 21 years for first-time, non-violent drug offense under Rockefeller Drug Laws; Tony Papa, ex-non-violent drug offender, who served 12 years under Rockefeller Drug Laws.

 

Originally Posted - May 9, 2006


return home

Assembly Proposes Further Reform Of Rockefeller Drug Laws

Marking the 33rd anniversary of the enactment of New York State's overly harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws, the state Assembly announced passage of legislation that would make the state's drug laws "smarter and more effective".

Saying Rockefeller Drug Law reform "is not done," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Correction committee chair Jeffrion Aubry and Codes Committee chair Joseph Lentol were joined at a Capitol news conference by key Assembly committee chairs and drug law reform advocates.

According to Silver, the Assembly legislation (A.8098A) seeks to "reduce drug-related crime by addressing the substance abuse that often lies at the core of criminal behavior." The bill would accomplish this goal by mandating certain drug offenders receive treatment and expanding judicial discretion to moderate the toughest sentences. In addition, Silver noted, the bill would increase sentences for major drug traffickers and drug offenders who prey on children. The measure also creates the new crime of possession of a firearm while selling or attempting to sell drugs.

Silver and Aubry noted that while an important first step was made in 2004 to moderate the harshest sentences under the state's drug laws, more needs to be done. The two noted that despite previous pledges by the executive and the Senate to continue working on this issue, no bills have been introduced this year to demonstrate that commitment.

"This bill provides for the kind of judicial and correctional reforms the Assembly has been seeking for years and that are at the heart of any effort to curb addiction and drug-related crimes," said Silver. "Our smart, comprehensive approach seeks to get to the root of our state's drug problem by hitting the drug kingpins hard, and getting the low-level, non violent offenders the treatment they need to get off and stay off drugs."

"Despite a commitment made two years ago by the governor and the Senate to revisit New York's ineffective and imprudent drug laws, they have failed to come forward with any further steps that would provide additional reforms," said Aubry. "We in the Assembly continue to recognize that existing laws are badly flawed and in need of further changes. My bill fulfills our commitment by providing for a more sensible, comprehensive and cost-effective approach for dealing with low-level drug offenders and addicts."

The cornerstone of the Assembly plan is an effort to reduce crime rates by ensuring that non-violent offenders complete effective drug treatment.

Under the Assembly plan, prosecutors would get the first chance at deciding whether low-level, non-violent drug offenders would be diverted from prison to drug-treatment programs through the new "Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment Program." Only after this initial prosecutorial determination had been made would the judge be empowered to make a decision on treatment under the program. Drug treatment under the new initiative would generally have a minimum one-year term and include time in a residential drug-treatment facility. Those who do not successfully complete treatment would face a felony conviction, which, for repeat offenders, would mean a mandatory state prison sentence. Diversion would not be available for offenders who committed violent felonies or sold or attempted to sell drugs to minors.

Each drug-treatment plan would have to include a drug-testing component. Offenders would generally be subject to probation supervision while receiving drug treatment.

Judges would be given additional discretion to order non-violent offenders to DOCS' Willard drug-treatment facility in Seneca County. Judges would also be given the authority to sentence eligible drug offenders directly to the DOCS-run shock incarceration program. Both options would have to include a drug-treatment component and provide continuing drug treatment upon release from prison. In addition, judges would be given the discretion to sentence additional non-violent offenders who possessed small quantities of narcotics to drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

Another important component of the Assembly's proposal would give judges greater discretion to impose appropriate sentences designed to fit the facts and circumstances of each drug-related crime.

The Assembly's sentencing changes would:

Increase possession thresholds required to meet certain Class A-I and A-II felony sentences from four to eight ounces and two to four ounces, respectively. This change would not be applicable to major drug traffickers;

Increase possession thresholds for lower level drug possession crimes; and

Increase penalties for major drug traffickers.

The Assembly plan not only increases sentences for major drug traffickers and adult offenders peddling drugs to our children, providing life maximum sentences to drug kingpins, but it also combats the deadly connection between drugs and firearms. The proposal would impose a mandatory five-year determinate sentence upon offenders who carried a loaded handgun while selling or attempting to sell drugs.

Drug-treatment programs operated in prisons and in conjunction with the courts, the Division of Parole and probation departments would be reformed and enhanced under the Assembly plan.

The Assembly approach recognizes that enacting and fully funding Chief Judge Judith Kaye's initiative to expand drug courts to every county in the state is key to providing necessary treatment reforms. These drug courts would provide the needed judicial monitoring and infrastructure to assure strict compliance with treatment requirements.

Every inmate on probation, on parole or in a state correctional facility with a documented drug or alcohol-abuse problem would be required to undergo a drug or alcohol- abuse treatment program lasting at least one year. Mandatory tests for drug abuse would be required.

Mandatory drug or alcohol treatment would also be required for appropriate juvenile delinquents and juvenile offenders.

An important goal of the Assembly plan is to make the Willard drug-treatment facility, which is jointly run by the state Department of Correctional Services and Division of Parole, a more effective treatment and crime-reducing tool. Under the plan, judges would be given the discretion to sentence statutorily eligible offenders to the Willard program and participation would be expanded to include non-violent Class "B" and "C" drug offenders. Also, all Willard "graduates" would be required to undergo an additional year-long treatment program following release from the Willard facility. Because transitional services are critical to reducing recidivism, the Assembly plan statutorily establishes these programs.

Another key component of the Assembly's plan strengthens post-release supervision by reducing offender/parole officer caseloads for certain released drug offenders. 5-09-06

© 2006 North Country Gazette

 

 

Flash!  May 2, 2006  : Rush Limbaugh and the Politics of Drug Addiction


http://www.counterpunch.org/papa05022006.html
 
May 2, 2006

Rush Limbaugh and the Politics of Drug Addiction

People in Glass Booths Should Not Throw Maggots
By ANTHONY PAPA
Whether you love him or hate him, want him to go to jail or not, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has become a national symbol for drug addiction. Rush's recent clash with the law reminds us that drug addiction does not discriminate. Unfortunately, our drug policies do.
Rush was investigated for illegally obtaining thousands of addictive prescription pain killers. Criminal charges were dropped against him in Florida when he worked out a plea agreement which included a $30,000 penalty and continued drug treatment.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance has called for treatment instead of incarceration for Rush Limbaugh. "The Alliance's guiding principle is that people should not be punished for what they put into their own bodies, but only for crimes committed against others. According to that logic, Rush--even Rush-- should be allowed to deal with his issues with drugs privately."
Rush Limbaugh's noxious lack of sympathy for others in similar predicaments tests one's commitment to the idea of non-incarceration, compassion and treatment for all non-violent drug offenders. Many who normally support treatment instead of incarceration would love to see Limbaugh locked up and to get a taste of his own medicine. Rush has demonized drug offenders to his national audience of "dittoheads."
Less than two weeks ago, Limbaugh weighed in on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) announcement that there were no "sound scientific studies" supporting the medicinal use of marijuana. His diatribe was characteristically callous and harsh toward sick and dying people who use medical marijuana as Limbaugh blathered "the FDA says there's no -- zilch, zero, nada -- shred of medicinal value to the evil weed marijuana. This is going to be a setback to the long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking crowd."
This distain for medical marijuana patients is not the first time Rush showed a lack of compassion to people who use drugs or suffer from addiction. Limbaugh is the man who scoffed at the idea that African Americans are disproportionately arrested on drug charges, and suggested that the solution was to arrest more white people. Interestingly enough, Mr. Limbaugh sang a different tune when he was the white person who could have easily ended up behind bars if he was not the famous radio personality that he is.
This point is very close to my heart, as someone who, through addiction, was sentenced to 15 years to life for a non-violent drug offense. Even though, I am someone who Rush said deserved to be behind bars, I am willing to turn the other cheek and advocate for him to get treatment instead of the jail cell that I was given. Some might argue that there is a difference between the use of prescription drugs and illegal ones. But as Limbaugh's case underscores, addiction does not discriminate between legal and illegal substances.

Limbaugh contends that his addiction was a by-product of taking painkillers for chronic pain from a back injury. Many people with diseases ranging from back pain to cancer use marijuana to treat pain, nausea, glaucoma and various other symptoms associated with their conditions. Instead of pot, Limbaugh chose painkillers to treat his ailments. What's the difference? One drug is demonized, while the other is not.
One can only hope Limbaugh's experiences with addiction and the drug war will encourage him to join the movement to reform drug policy. Mr. Limbaugh has an enormous platform and reach. If he decided to take up the cause of treatment instead of incarceration for drug users, he could help change laws across the country. After all, if treatment instead of jail is good enough for him as he struggles with his addiction, surely it is good enough for the thousands of others just like him who struggle with their substance abuse every day.
Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

 

 

Flash!    April 20th 2006  : Thought the Rockefeller Drug Laws were Bad?

 

 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/34814/
Two Years in Jail for a Joint?
The war on drugs reached the pinnacle of cruelty when 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence was sentenced to two years in jail for selling a teaspoonful of marijuana to an undercover police officer for $20.
On June 30, 2004, detective Felix Aguirre, employed by the Drug Task Force, was assigned the duty of going undercover to buy drugs from kids who hung out in a parking lot in Berkshire County in Massachusetts . Merchants had complained to police about the kids. Mitchell Lawrence was there with his pipe and a few buds of marijuana. He had no idea the parking lot was less than 1,000 feet from a preschool located in the basement of a church, nor did he know this parking lot was the site of a police sting operation.
Aguirre approached Mitchell and asked him if he had any weed. Mitchell pulled out a small bag of marijuana. The cop offered him $20. Mitchell hesitated; Aguirre insisted. Mitchell, who had seen Aguirre hanging out with other kids, motioned the cop to follow him up the street where he intended to smoke with him. Aguirre waved the $20 in his face. Mitchell, who was broke at the time, took the money, the first time he had ever accepted money in exchange for marijuana.
In the months that followed, Aguirre approached Mitchell again for marijuana. This time, however, Mitchell refused. Weeks later, a crew of undercover cops stormed Mitchell's home and placed him under arrest. Mitchell was found guilty of distribution of marijuana, committing a drug violation within a drug-free school zone and possession.
On March 22, 2006, Mitchell Lawrence was sentenced to two years in prison.
While this outrageous case happened in a sleepy burg in Massachusetts , the case of Mitchell Lawrence is one of countless tales of drug war madness that takes place on America 's streets daily.
Mitchell Lawrence's story was eerily familiar to me. In 1985, I was the subject of a police sting operation after passing an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine to undercover officers in Mount Vernon , New York . I was set up by someone who offered me $500 to transport the package. The individual who introduced me to the cop was an informant facing life in prison. He was offered a deal -- the more people he helped ensnare, the less time he would serve. I received a sentence of 15 years to life under New York 's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Mitchell Lawrence's disproportionate sentence was handed down one day before the release of a national report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) titled, "Disparity by Design: How Drug-free Zone Laws Impact Racial Disparity and Fail to Protect Youth," which includes research from Massachusetts.
The JPI study, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, found that drug-free zone laws do not serve their intended purpose of protecting youth from drug activity. The Massachusetts data on drug enforcement in three cities found that less than one percent of the drug-free zone cases actually involved sales to youth. Additionally, Massachusetts researchers found that nonwhites were more likely to be charged with an offense that carries drug-free zone enhancement than whites engaged in similar conduct. Blacks and Hispanics account for just 20 percent of Massachusetts residents, but 80 percent of drug-free zone cases.
"School zone laws have remained unchanged in Massachusetts because the legislature has been promised that prosecutors use discretion," said Whitney A. Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. "Unfortunately, the life of a young man has been sacrificed, proving that discretion is not being used, and that the law must be changed."
Mitchell Lawrence was not the only person arrested in an undercover drug operation in the summer of 2004. There were a total of 18 others, including five young people who are still awaiting trial for alleged sales that took place at the same Great Barrington parking lot.
District Attorney David F. Capeless is the man behind Berkshire County enforcement and entrapment. Capeless is a hard-nosed drug war zealot, who insists that these laws are effective in combating drug use -- even if it means ruining a young man's life in the process.
Mitchell Lawrence was set to graduate from high school this spring. Instead, he will watch his fellow classmates graduate from his prison cell.
The common thread between my case, Mitchell's case and drug-free school zones nationally is the abuse of power from the prosecutors through the application of mandatory minimums. These laws handcuff judges and force them to impose harsh sentences.
Mitchell Lawrence's conviction inspired a group of concerned Berkshire County residents to seek Capeless' ouster in the upcoming district attorney race. Defense attorney Judith Knight answered the call to fill this role. Knight, a former assistant district attorney for Middlesex County , said Mitchell Lawrence's conviction was "the tipping point" for her decision to run against Capeless in the upcoming Democratic primary election in September.
"A tough prosecutor is tough on crime and also has the ability to demonstrate compassion and insight when the case calls for it," Knight says. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of David Soares, who ran for district attorney and defeated Paul Clyne in Albany , New York , in 2004. Soares ran a race primarily on the platform of Rockefeller Drug Law reform. He easily defeated the sitting district attorney, who refused to change his views on the draconian drug law legislation of New York .
It is heartening that communities like Berkshire County are fighting back and attempting to hand reckless district attorneys and other politicians the pink slip. Choosing to destroy lives and indiscriminately apply laws does more harm than good, ultimately, and it doesn't make our streets any safer.
Anthony Papa is the author of "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom" (Feral House) and currently is a Communication Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance
 
 
 

Two Years for One Joint: New Flash Movie Highlights Injustice

 

18-Year-Old Mitchell Lawrence is in Jail Because of Bad Law, Cruel Prosecutor

 

Viewers Encouraged to Send Support to Lawrence Family and Change Misguided, Ineffective and Racist Drug-Free School Zone Laws

 

View Flash Movie at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/050506greatbarringtonflash.cfm

 

 

 

Flash!  April 3, 2006 - The push is on for B-Felony Rockefeller Reform - 

The following op-ed was in response to the NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutors op-ed found in the March 27th edition of the  Gotham Gazette.

 

 
http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/fea/20060331/202/1804
 
Gotham Gazette - http://www.gothamgazette.com/article//20060331/202/1804
Rockefeller Drug Laws: An Ex-Prisoners View
by Anthony Papa
31 Mar 2006


Photo: 15yearstolife.com

Anthony Papa with self-portrait,
Little over thirty years ago Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the New York State legislature created the toughest drug laws in the nation. Their aim was to curb the drug epidemic, capture drug kingpins and create harsh drug laws that would combat drug use and selling. In reality this did not occur. Instead these laws have filled our prisons with non violent drug offenders, primarily from NYC neighborhoods. Over 94 percent of those incarcerated are black and Latino. Over 80 percent of New Yorkers agree that these laws are not effective and there is a need to created meaningful reform. In 2002 for the first time in history the governor of New York and legislative leaders called for reform.
In 2004 and 2005 following that call, the New York Stare Legislature imposed changes in the Rockefeller Drug Laws. These reforms were meant to allow current drug offenders who have already served long sentences to apply for reduced sentences. They also lowered drug sentences and expanded prison-based drug treatment. These minor reforms, in theory, would affect about 1000 drug war prisoners eligible for resentencing under the Drug Law Reform Act (DRLA).
I served 12 years of a 15 to life sentence for a non-violent drug offense after passing an envelope to undercover officers containing 4 ounces of cocaine in exchange for 500 dollars. I made the biggest mistake of my life just like many others who are serving hard time. In 1997 I was granted clemency by Governor Pataki, who recognized the injustice of my sentence. Most of the people I left behind were serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses. I then became an activist who has fought tooth and nail for meaningful reform and was very disappointed to see that very little was done in the minor changes made in 2004 and 2005.
While these changes were a first small step, much more needs to be done, like addressing the issue of the 4,800 B-felons who make up the largest group of drug prisoners. Currently selling small quantities of drugs can land you a sentence up to nine years for a first offense, equal to a B-level crime such as rape or armed robbery.
But almost more upsetting than the lack of changes has been the response made by the prosecutors of New York, who often distort the facts associated with these reforms. The most outspoken opponents of these laws have continuously put out a "war cry" to the media and the public about the dangers of revising these laws and how the gateways of hell would be open if the laws were changed. If you look through their hype you will discover the underlying reasoning behind their stance. Prosecutors live and die by their rates of conviction. This is the bottom line.
With activists inching closer to meaningful reform comes the reality that prosecutors would eventually lose their omnipotent power in drug law cases. As it stands with the new reforms they maintained this power. They still control the outcome of a drug case from its beginning.
While the prosecutors point to a handful of people who are undeserving of relief under the new reforms, the vast majority are non-violent offenders who deserve a chance to reenter society and be treated with compassion. Just like when NYC District Attorney Bob Morgenthau showed compassion recently for the NYU "Pot Princess" Julia Diaco who was sentenced to treatment and 5 years probation instead of a 25 year sentence for 8 separate felony sales. And before her , Governor Pataki's former Rockefeller Drug Law spokesperson who was busted for buying crack cocaine and sentenced to a 250-dollar fine and treatment.. We have to think about the concept of redemption and compassion for all. People can change their lives. I know this for a fact.
According to Drug Policy Alliance, a leading policy group in NYC, 70 percent of the 1,000 prisoners that were eligible for relief under the new reforms are still in prison.
One of the most significant reasons for this is that prosecutors almost always argue for the maximum sentence, ignoring the records of rehabilitation and relying on old facts that were maintained many years earlier. One of the most controversial points of Rockefeller reform is judicial discretion. Under the current laws, judges have little power to place offenders in treatment. The power is maintained by the prosecutors, who also decide what charges are appropriate. Advocates for reform argue how could justice be served by allowing the one party who measures success by their conviction rates? Discretion should be available to the presiding judge, who is the only objective person in the case.
It may be true that inner city neighborhoods are devastated by drug use. However, this is not the only root cause for this. Lack of opportunity, unemployment and education are also contributing factors. One of the most significant factors is also the lack of drug treatment. Under the new reforms the State legislature did not fund community based treatment, which has been found to be the most cost effective way to reduce drug use.
While in prison, I became a jailhouse lawyer and litigated dozens of drug cases and never once came across a "drug kingpin". Most of these prisoners were non-violent drug users that needed treatment. However, treatment was not available in prison then, and it is not available now.
We need to create laws that will protect the community and at the same time be fair and just. The Rockefeller Drug Laws in many ways have become crueler than the crimes that are committed. They go beyond the individuals that committee crimes. They destroy their families and put a financial burden on tax payers that foot the bill for an ancient and proven ineffective approach to the drug problem. The drug war has fueled the prison industrial complex. Since 1982, 33 prisons have been built in rural Republican upstate communities. They have become a source of revenue for upstate politicians that have discovered a cash cow. Instead of filling our prisons with non-violent drug offenders we should concentrate on alternatives like drug treatment and the creation of jobs and education for the communities of color which is affected the most in the efforts to lock our way out of the drug problem. Only then will we be able to solve the drug war problem in New York.
Anthony Papa is the author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom

 

 

 

DrugReporter

Awaiting Real Rockefeller Reform

By Anthony Papa, AlterNet. Posted March 29, 2006.


New York's drug laws ensure that the privileged and connected receive leniency for the same offenses that send thousands of blacks and Latinos to prison. Tools
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Julia Diaco, the so-called "Pot Princess" was sentenced on March 22 in Manhattan Supreme Court to five years' probation for drug dealing. Diaco was 18 years old when she was arrested for multiple sales of drugs to undercover narcotic officers from her dorm room at NYU. Despite having a "strong" case against her and facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, she received probation upon completing a drug rehab and education program.

This follows the high-profile case of Caroline Quartararo, a former spokeswoman on Rockefeller drug law reform for Gov. Pataki who received a similar minor sentence after being arrested with crack cocaine. Quartararo was given treatment and a $250 fine. She was arrested on Dec. 20 for possessing three rocks of crack cocaine. She pleaded guilty to seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Cheri O'Donoghue, whose son Ashley is currently serving a sentence of 7-21 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, said the cases of Julia Diaco and Caroline Quartararo prove that "if you are rich and privileged, you will likely receive compassion from the courts.

"While I support the notion of compassion and access to treatment for people who use and abuse drugs," said O'Donoghue, "the reality is that people of color who get caught up in the criminal justice system generally receive neither." While drug use rates are similar between blacks and whites, approximately 92 percent of the people in prison on drug charges in New York are black and Latino.

O'Donoghue's 23-year-old son, who is black, sold cocaine to two white students, who in turn sought to resell the drugs on their Hamilton College campus. The students were caught and received probation. Ashley O'Donoghue was left to languish in prison, another casualty of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. He is one of more than 4,000 people sitting in New York state prisons convicted of B-level Rockefeller drug law felonies. The modest reforms to the state's drug laws in 2004 and 2005 have no impact on these B-level offenders.

Gabriel Sayegh, director of the State Organizing and Policy Project of the Drug Policy Alliance says New Yorkers want to see meaningful Rockefeller Drug Law reform. "Even after the reforms last year, the vast majority of people incarcerated under these failed laws are still languishing behind bars," he said. "Our elected officials in Albany need to take action to enact real reform of these laws, so that young men like Ashley O'Donoghue can receive the same compassion as those who are rich, well-connected or are employed by the governor."

Anthony Papa is the author of "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom" (Feral House).

 

 

 

 

Flash!  March 23, 2006 - NEW YORK POST CALLS FOR REPEAL!!!

 

http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/editorial/63462.h

 

 
 
AND THE 'POT PRINCESS,' TOO
March 23, 2006 -- In other Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free news, NYU "Pot Princess" Julia Diaco skated out of Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday after getting probation for narcotics crimes that would have earned any less fortunate soul a very long stretch upstate indeed.
Take a bow, DA Bob Morgenthau.
Diaco, who was running a veritable narcotics superstore out of her NYU freshman dorm, had her wrist lightly tapped by Justice Charles Solomon, pursuant to a deal worked out with Morgenthau's minions - the same crew that let fading pop icon Boy George slide on felony-weight cocaine charges this month.
True, the singer wasn't accused actually of selling narcotics - unlike Diaco, who peddled drugs to undercover cops on eight separate occasions.
But she has resources: Her lawyer, Paul Schechtman, is Gov. Pataki's former criminal justice coordinator - and so she will do five years probation, max.
Unlike say, Anthony Papa, who, as The Post reported yesterday, was purportedly a first-time, nonviolent drug dealer when he was busted in 1984 under the so-called Rockefeller drug laws - ultimately serving 12 years of hard time.
The Rockefeller-era mandatory-sentencing laws are a complicated subject.
But while they're not nearly as "draconian" as some of New York's criminal-coddlers would have the public believe, they are serious business, indeed.
Suffice it to say that, under those laws, very few drug dealers who are not young, white, attractive women from wealthy New Jersey construction families, with the money for all-star attorneys like Schechtman, get terms of probation.
Oh, yeah - pop stars get breaks, too.
Which makes the arguments of Rocky-law critics - that they permit double standards, with sentences driven by race, class and other subjective factors - a lot more persuasive.
The Rocky laws need to be strictly enforced.
Or repealed.
 

 

Flash!  March 22, 2005 - Pot Princess Gets Compassion!

 
http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/65791.htm
 


POT HOTTIE BREATHES FREEDOM
By DAREH GREGORIAN
March 22, 2006 -- The so-called "Pot Princess" got a fairy-tale ending in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday, where she was sentenced to five years' probation for dealing drugs on and around the NYU campus.
Julia Diaco, 20, was officially slapped on the wrist after her lawyer told Justice Charles Solomon that, as per the deal she'd worked out with prosecutors, she'd successfully completed her drug rehab and education program.
Asked if she wanted to say anything before her sentencing, Diaco - dressed in a dark, pinstriped skirt suit with knee-high stiletto-heeled boots - whispered, "No."
Her lawyer, Paul Schechtman, told the judge his client had taken "a long journey and a successful one."
Diaco - who had cracked wise to reporters after her arrest in 2004 - declined comment as she left court. Schechtman said, "She's a very different person than she was 18 months ago, and she has a bright future ahead of her."
Diaco was facing up to 25 years in prison had she been convicted of the top charges against her at trial.
Prosecutors apparently had a strong case against her - including videotape of her selling marijuana, magic mushrooms, LSD and cocaine to undercover officers.
While she was selling small amounts, she was also dealing on a regular basis, using her NYU dorm as her "base of operations," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said she dealt to undercover officers eight times, with her biggest deal $650 worth of cocaine, and would ply her wares on and around the NYU campus, including Washington Square Park.
When she was arrested, she was carrying several ounces of marijuana and a scale.
The case was surprising because the petite Diaco didn't need the money - she's the daughter of a millionaire builder and grew up in a castle-like mansion in tony Rumson, N.J.
Diaco pleaded guilty to drug possession and sale charges in 2004, but was allowed to withdraw that plea and plead guilty to lesser versions of those charges yesterday after successfully completing her drug rehab program and passing her drug tests.
She now attends a community college in New Jersey.
News of the deal frustrated Anthony Papa, 51, who, like Diaco, was once a first-time, non-violent offender. Instead of probation, he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for delivering four ounces of cocaine for a police informant to an undercover cop for a $500 fee.
The owner of a struggling auto repair business in The Bronx, Papa was desperate for cash and couldn't afford a pricey lawyer.
"I get angry with a case like this because the laws are not applied equally. Because she had money and the right lawyers, she didn't go to jail. Others should have that same opportunity," he said. "All people should be treated like this woman - with compassion."

 

 

 

Flash!  March 14 2005 - Reform Needs Reform!

http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-oppap144661414mar14,0,701284.story?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines

 

Newsday.com  
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State drug reform law needs to reform ... itself   - by Anthony Papa


Anthony Papa is the author of "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom."

March 14, 2006

Just more than a year ago, Albany launched a partial reform of New York's drug laws through the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004.

The State Legislature boasted that the new changes would lower most drug sentences, allow for the application of retroactive resentencing, increase time off for good behavior for drug offenders and expand prison-based drug treatment. In theory, the implemented changes were to affect about 1,000 prisoners. But these changes weren't effective.

I once served 12 years in prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, and I've been working for meaningful reform of these laws for the past nine years. I have worked the political spectrum of the issue, meeting with the governor and legislative leaders. I have broken bread with the family members and the prisoners who have been affected by these draconian laws. I know this issue inside-out and recognize what needs to be done to remedy the problem.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy organization based in New York, almost 70 percent of the people eligible for relief under the new drug reform act are still in prison. One of the main reasons is that the act gives judges a wide range of sentencing options for those who apply for resentencing. Judges could reduce the sentence of a first-time offender who has already served a lengthy term to as little as eight to 20 years. But prosecutors almost always argue for the maximum sentence, relying on facts about acts done many years earlier and ignoring the record of rehabilitation while in prison. This omission impedes the process tremendously.

The most controversial sticking point of Rockefeller reform is judicial discretion in drug sentencing. Under the 2004 law, judges have very limited power to place a drug offender into treatment. Instead, the power is held by the prosecutor, who also decides what charges are made and how the plea process is applied.

Reform advocates argue that this is unfair. Such power should not be controlled by the one party who measures success by conviction rates. Referral to treatment, by the way, is not considered a win by the prosecutors. Instead, discretion should be made available to the judge, who is the one objective person involved in the case.

Legislation intended to lead to further reform of the drug laws is expected to be introduced in the Assembly next month. But chances of its passage this year are regarded as slim.

Drug treatment has not been expanded in state prisons. While I was incarcerated in Sing Sing under a 15-to-life sentence, I saw that the majority of prisoners around me were there because of small-time drug crimes. Many had drug habits. Proper drug treatment programs were not available then and are not available now.

Under the 2004 reforms, the State Legislature did not fund community-based treatment. This is a cost-effective way to reduce drug abuse. Without proper funding, increased numbers of people will be forced to compete for limited treatment slots. The cycle of addiction will continue, along with crime and recidivism.

The legislature also failed to address the application of resentencing eligibility for 4,800 B-level felons who comprise the largest group of drug-war prisoners. New York drug laws define offenses according to the weight of the narcotics involved in individual cases. Thus, an A-1 felony - the most serious - involves the largest quantities. An A-2 felony involves somewhat less.

The sale of a small amount of drugs can be equated with a B-level crime such as armed robbery or rape, carrying a sentence of up to nine years for a first offense. Establishing a quantity requirement for the B-level sale of a narcotic drug, as is the case for other drugs, would remove many of the lowest-level street sales from the category of B felonies.

This change would reduce the prison population, making the cells now occupied by small-time drug offenders available for violent offenders, without an additional financial burden.

The governor and the legislature should be applauded for taking the initial step in reforming the Rockefeller drug laws. But the partial reforms are not reaching the people they were intended to help.

We must continue to challenge the legislature and the district attorneys to apply these changes effectively and, more important, compel further meaningful reform.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
 
 

 

 

Flash! 2/8/06 - Al  - Grandpa  - Lewis - great Rockefeller Drug Law activist dies

 

 

 


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The Passing and Passion of Grandpa Al Lewis, 1910-2006 
by Mitchel Cohen
www.dissidentvoice.org
February 6, 2006

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[Friday, February 3]

What a sad day ... and what an incredible, artistic and political life! 

I first met Al Lewis in person in New Haven in 1971, at a demonstration in support of the jailed Black Panthers. I remember it being a very raw afternoon, and I kept staring at the man I'd later introduce myself to, wondering at the famous fellow standing all by himself unlike so many actors and famous people, and then lost in the small crowd that turned up. 

Later, I was to learn that Grandpa was rarely alone in that way. Campaigning with him for Governor all over the City with other Green stalwarts like Frank Carr, Craig Seeman, Michele Daneles, Afrime Derti, Carl Lawrence, Pete Dolack, Johann Moore and Robb Ross -- the core of the Brooklyn Greens at that time -- I was struck by the amount of adulation and genuine affection that so many people had for Al, especially (gulp!) cops, I suppose thanks to his role in Car 54 Where Are You? as well as The Munsters. They all wanted Al to sign autographs. I collected hundreds of signatures to put Al on the ballot from cops riding home on the Long Island Railroad and the Staten Island ferry. It was amazing, the transformation that came over people when Al greeted them. He ended up getting just over the 50,000 votes we needed to put the Green Party onto the ballot in NY State. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo by Michelle LaRose
Phantom Photography
Copyright © by Michelle LaRose
 

Al was also incredibly scholarly, a voluminous reader and fluent in Yiddish, which he used during his borscht-belt schticks, regaling his audiences with gossip and hilariously funny stories about his friends, which included certain Mafia chieftains like Gotti. He told Greens over and over about how his first political protest was when his mama brought him to defend Sacco and Vanzetti, and he fought for political prisoners all his life. 

One of his disappointments in the last few years was his difficulty in being able to read due to problems with his eyesight. But he maintained his saber-slashing anarchistic stance when dealing with U.S. politicians, prison wardens and warmongers to the end. 

Al and Karen were incredibly supportive of many people, including me, personally, when I was a Green Party candidate and as an organizer against pesticides and genetic engineering. They sponsored several events with the Roosevelt Island Greens at which I was the featured speaker, and contributed generously to the NoSpray Coalition over the years as well as to my campaign for Mayor on the Green Party line in 2001. I remember when Al was already sick, a Reclaim the Streets party/demo had ended up on Roosevelt Island. We marched past Al and Karen's apartment, and I started the chant: "We love you Grandpa, we miss you, get better!" and pretty soon the hundreds of us took up the chant, lights came on in the apartments, people looked out the windows, and everyone waved, knowing whom we were chanting about as we snaked by. 

To say Al will be missed is, as is often the case, a vast understatement. Among the many issues that he took on, the fight to get rid of the onerous Rockefeller drug laws in New York (in which people have been imprisoned for 20 years and more for first offense non-violent drug charges) was dear to his heart, and he fought the thanatocracy ceaselessly to free the hundreds of those imprisoned, their lives meaninglessly stolen from them. 

This crotchety, funny, whip-smart, annoying, funny, ribald, funny, generous, funny (!) and always dependable anti-racist activist was, in my opinion, one of the great people of the century, a legend walking among us. I loved him dearly, even (or especially) when we argued, and so did many, many others. 

A life well lived? Hell, a life in REVOLT! 

Grandpa Al Lewis -- Presenté! 

 

 

 

 

FLASH!   1/14/ 06    WITHOUT FREEDOM, REFORM IS MEANINGLESS -    "To be successful in advocating an issue is to keep pushing it to the public.  My job as an activist is to continue to find ways to keep the issue in the news so it becomes a repetitive theme, akin to a moving poem or a haunting melody"   

 

 

http://www.corporatemofo.com/stories/060105_Papa.htm

Without Freedom,
Reform is Meaningless
   
What better way to quell the fire that burns in the hearts of drug war activists in New York than to pass reform that is rumored to effect, in theory, about 1,000 prisoners sentenced under the Rockefeller Drug Laws?

We have fought for meaningful reform for 32 years. In 1973, when the Rockefeller Laws were enacted, we saw a badly created law that incarcerated many drug offenders from the inner city neighborhoods of New York. This in turn, created smart upstate rural politicians like Senator Dale Volker, who saw the Rockefeller Drug Laws as a tool to help make the business of imprisonment a major industry in the 59th Senate District that he presides over. Other politicians followed Volker's lead and thus a reason for not reforming these laws was created.

A staggering 93% of the 16,000 people locked up under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws are Black and Latino. Many of those incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws are people convicted of first-time, non-violent offenses. Under these laws, people convicted of drug offenses face the same penalties as those convicted of murder, and harsher penalties than those convicted of rape.

Through constant political pressure from concerned activists over the course of many years, we managed to get to get the point across to New York politicians: We were not going to give up until the Rockefeller Drug laws were reformed. So, when the pressure mounted, these politicians reacted, as politicians will.

Finally, early in 2005, a revision was made that affected 446 prisoners sentenced under the A-1 felony statute. Activists, feeling their job was done, began backing off. After all those years of fighting, finally a real change had occurred. Now in September of this year, the governor, senate and assembly proudly announced another change that would affect about 540 prisoners sentenced under A-2 felonies.

To those who are not familiar with the history of the struggle and the extent of the changes made, it may seem as though the problem has been fixed. The laws, it seems, had been changed. But, if we take a good look at what really happened, most of the 446 A-1 felons eligible for relief are still in prison. According to the Department of Corrections, as of July, 2005, only 86 were set free from the 184 prisoners who were re-sentenced under the changes.

New York politicians claimed the recent changes to the law amounted to nothing less than sweeping reform. Self-serving feathers in the caps of politicians are nothing new, but, to proclaim that the 32 years of struggle activists have invested to fix these very wrong laws have concluded in meaningful reform is a travesty of justice. Advocates expected the new law to actually be followed so that eligible people could go home, but the re-sentencing process has proved unnecessarily difficult.

In a recent Drug Policy Alliance press release Bill Gibney, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, stated that "These reforms are just symbolic if they're not implemented." "The vast majority of people eligible to petition for early release are still behind bars. The Governor and Legislature shouldn't pat themselves on the back until they've ensured that these reforms are duly acted upon. "Without granting freedom along with reform, the reform remains the same political rhetoric we have heard for years.

As activists and concerned citizens, we cannot sit back and bask in the glory of these recent watered down changes. We must continue to push for meaningful reform that will set free the many thousands of non-violent drug offenders stuck in the prisons of New York State. Without implementing freedom through these recent changes, Rockefeller reform is meaningless.

 

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom (Feral House)
 

 

 

 

Flash!!  Dec 26 , 2005    Clemency For Mothers of the NY Disappeared  Member

 

New York Post

 
GOV CLEMENCY ENDS NYER'S 'ROCKY' ORDEAL
 
 

  BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Gov. Pataki gave clemency to Darryl Best, here with wife Wanda. Best got 15 years for receiving a FedEx package of drugs not addressed to him.

Gov. Pataki gave the gift of freedom yesterday to a man whose controversial conviction on a 2001 drug charge made him a symbol of the harshness of the Rockefeller drug laws.

Darryl Best, 49, was convicted of possessing 16 ounces of cocaine and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Pataki commuted his term — making Best eligible for freedom in January — in the governor's only act of clemency this Christmas.

Best was working at an uncle's home in The Bronx when a FedEx van pulled up to deliver a package. He signed for the delivery before realizing that the item was addressed to his uncle but bore the name of a next-door neighbor.

As he tried to flag down the van, police appeared and arrested him for possession of narcotics. The package, which he never opened, contained 16 ounces of cocaine. Police maintained that he intended to receive the drugs, while Best said he knew nothing about it.

In an October 2001 verdict that surprised many courtroom observers, Best was convicted of the felony and sentenced in accordance with the now-defunct Rockefeller drug laws. The father of five had no prior arrests.

Best's case slowly gained notoriety as an example of what critics called excessive drug penalties in New York. The Kunstler Foundation for Racial Justice became a supporter and worked with Best's wife Wanda to have his conviction overturned.

She made an appearance on the "John Walsh Show" in 2002 and gained the support of the "America's Most Wanted" host.

Best's sentence was cut to nine years earlier this year with the rescinding of the Rockefeller laws, but supporters still pushed for clemency. Yesterday, they got it.

His wife of 27 years was breathless with joy as she prepared for her first enjoyable Christmas Eve dinner in six years.

"This has just been a long, continuous nightmare," she said from her home on the Lower East Side. "I couldn't wake up from it. Losing Darryl was like losing half of myself. It took years before I could even go to the same places we used to go because I would just cry when I saw them."

Randy Credico, director of the Kunstler Foundation, thanked Pataki yesterday as he prepared to deliver a bottle of celebratory champagne to Best's home.

"This was a long, hard struggle," he said.

The campaign to free Best included the filming of a documentary outlining his case and several meetings with Pataki.

 

Chauncey Parker, state director of Criminal Justice, said the clemency does not reflect on Best's innocence or guilt but on his behavior in prison and his potential once released. "In this instance, the governor believed that he deserved a second chance," Parker said.

selim.algar@nypost.com

 

 

 

 

Flash!!  December 19, 2005   Rock Reform Sends Few To Freedom

 

http://www.northcountrygazette.org/articles/121905DrugReformShort.html

 

Report Says Drug Law Reform Falls Short Of Goals

ALBANY---On the first anniversary of the Drug Law Reform Act, signed into law by Gov. George Pataki last December and designed to reform the draconian Rockefeller drug laws of the 1970s, the Legal Aid Society says that it has fallen far short of achieving the goals of the drug law reform movement.

The Governor's expectation that hundreds of prisoners serving unduly long sentences would be immediately reunited with their families was not fulfilled, the report says. Only about half of the eligible felons have been resentenced, the report says, and only about half of those resentenced have been released from prison.

Some 473 people convicted of serious drug crimes were allowed to apply to be resentenced under the new determinate sentence guidelines. Although more than half were resentenced, only 142 were released or approximately 25% of the inmates serving sentences for A-1 drug felonies.

The report, authored by William Gibney, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, says that the Legislature needs to take additional steps towards reform and that there must be increased funding for treatment. Without increased treatment capability, expanding judicial discretion in sentencing will be meaningless the report says. There will be only increased numbers of people vying for a static number of treatment slots.

The Rockefeller Laws required a sentence of 15 years to life for a first time conviction of a sale of two ounces or possession of four ounces of a contraband drug. The sentencing court was given no discretion to adjust the length of the sentence to the degree of involvement of the offender in a drug enterprise or his or her prior criminal record. In case after case judges decried the unfairness of the law as they were forced to impose mandatory sentences.

Drug Law Reform in New York State had long been a priority of a diverse group of organizations and individuals meeting together as "Real Reform New York." This coalition included former prisoners who had been incarcerated under the laws, drug treatment providers, legal advocacy groups, and such other organizations as Drug Policy Alliance, Drop the Rock!, NY Mothers of the Disappeared, Seven Neighborhood Action Partnership, and many others. The need for reform was supported by research demonstrating that drug treatment was far more cost effective than incarceration at reducing drug addiction. By showing a multitude of individual examples of the unfairness of the drug laws, the advocacy groups gradually changed the opinions of many New Yorkers as to the effectiveness of incarceration as a solution to the drug problem.

At the time of passage of the DLRA, a majority of New Yorkers had come to favor drug law reform. Many drug law reform advocates were critical of the DLRA because it fell short of achieving important goals of the drug law reform movement. While it did eliminate some of the harshest of the old mandatory sentences, it still required judges to sentence people to prison in situations where the judge thought placement into a drug treatment program was more appropriate. The new law also failed to provide any additional money for treatment programs. It appeared as if the legislature has responded only to the criticism that the mandatory sentences were too long, but it was unprepared to act on the growing realization that less expensive, safer, and more effective treatment alternatives to prison were available.

The DLRA changed New York law in a number of ways, the report says. For all drug offenders who commit crimes after the new law's effective date, it replaced the old indeterminate sentencing system, in which sentences had a minimum and a maximum term, with determinate sentences that run for one flat period of time. For most drug offenders, the minimum possible term of the new determinate sentences is shorter than the previous indeterminate ones. For example, the minimum sentence for a person convicted of an A-I felony who had no prior felony convictions is now eight years instead of 15 years to life under the old law. The new system, however, also allows the sentencing judge in such an A-I case to impose a sentence as high as 20 years. For offenders with a prior violent felony offense, the sentence range is actually greater than under the old law.

The most immediate effect of new law was on those already serving the most serious drug offenses. This group, which initially included 473 people convicted of the A-I drug crimes, was permitted to apply to be re-sentenced in accordance with the terms of the new determinate sentences. And for those serving lesser sentences, it permitted