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Rockefeller Drug Laws to be Addressed at New York New Sentencing Commission Hearing

Families of Rockefeller Prisoners, Formerly Incarcerated People, Religious Leaders, Treatment Advocates to Hold Press Conference and Rally The Sentencing Commission, established by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is tasked with reforming New York’s convoluted and complex sentencing system. The Commission’s recently released preliminary report, however, did not include any substantive recommendations for reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, despite previous claims that the laws were a top priority.

Families of Rockefeller Prisoners, Formerly Incarcerated People, Religious Leaders, Treatment Advocates to Hold Press Conference and Rally

The Sentencing Commission, established by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is tasked with reforming New York’s convoluted and complex sentencing system. The Commission’s recently released preliminary report, however, did not include any substantive recommendations for reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, despite previous claims that the laws were a top priority.

Responding to public pressure, the Commission will hold public hearings on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to allow New Yorkers to weigh in on the need for Rockefeller Drug Law reform. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is scheduled to testify at the hearings at 11:30 a.m.

Family members of those impacted by the Rockefeller Drug Laws, treatment providers and religious leaders will be holding a pre-commission press conference at 9 a.m. outside the hearings, and then a 12:30 p.m. rally. Lieberman will participate in the rally.

What: Morning press conference and afternoon rally

Why: To urge Governor Spitzer and his Commission on Sentencing Reform to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws

When: Tuesday, Nov. 13 – press conference at 9 a.m., rally at 12:30 p.m.

Where: New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St. (between 5th and 6th Ave.)

Who: Rev. Herbert Daughtry, senior pastor, House of the Lord Church, Brooklyn

Rev. Arabella Meadows- Rogers, executive Presbyter, New York Presbytery

Terrence Stevens, executive director of In Arms Reach; served nearly 10 years for a low-level, first-time nonviolent Rockefeller Drug Law offense

Cheri O’Donoghue, mother of Ashley, who is incarcerated for seven to 21 years on a first-time, nonviolent offense

Glenn E. Martin, associate vice president of policy and advocacy, The Fortune Society

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, the Rockefeller Drug Laws continue to deny people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms, and do not increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. Nearly 14,000 people are locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, representing nearly 38 percent of the prison population, costing New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

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