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“Make the time fit the crime,” Say Albany-Area Mothers Of Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners

The Albany Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union held a news conference today that featured family members of Albany-area residents who are serving unfair sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Earlier this week Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and the Senate Republicans shut down the conference committee that was seeking to draft a reform bill.

Pat Durham, a claims processor for an Albany insurance company, spoke about her son, Tovaris Boon, who is completing the fourth year of an 18-years-to-life sentence in Greenhaven Prison: “I know my son was not completely innocent,” she said. “He made a serious mistake, and as a Christian, I believe he deserved to be punished. But the time just doesn’t fit the crime. He’s paid for his mistake, and now he’s ready to come home.”

Tovaris Boon, a high school graduate, was only 22-years-old when he was arrested with six ounces of cocaine. He had no prior convictions and at the time of his arrest he was working full-time for a car rental agency. He has an unblemished prison record. Melanie Trimble, the Executive Director of the NYCLU’s Albany Chapter said, “If Tovaris had been arrested, tried and convicted in New Jersey instead of New York, he would probably have been released by now, not facing another fourteen years — minimum — in prison.”

Ms. Durham made the difficult decision to speak publicly about her incarcerated son in the hope of shaking loose the political log jam that has once again threatened real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The joint Senate/Assembly conference committee session began in early May. The Republicans precipitously ended the conference earlier this week. Another year without reform will have real consequences for real people.

Robert Perry, Legislative Counsel for the NYCLU said, “Another year without reform would be unconscionable. Virtually everybody agrees the Rockefeller Drug Laws are unfair but so far New York State’s elected officials, unlike their counterparts in many other states, have not had the courage and wherewithal to confront this issue squarely.” According to a study recently released by Senate Minority Leader David A. Paterson New York, has the harshest laws in the country by far when it comes to sentencing drug offenders. Sen. Patterson is a strong supporter of reform.

The NYCLU is working with the Real Reform 2004 Coalition. Its four principles of drug policy have been endorsed by hundreds of civic, faith-based, educational, and legal organizations. The principles of real reform are:

  • Reducing sentences to levels proportionate to those for other non-violent crimes, and bringing New York into line with national standards.
  • Restoring judicial discretion so judges can fashion just sentences based on consideration of the particular case and, when appropriate, sentence low-level offenders to community-based treatment.
  • Delivering retroactive sentencing relief to currently incarcerated Rockefeller inmates serving unjustly long sentences.
  • Expanding drug treatment programs and other alternatives to incarceration for diverted low-level offenders.
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