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The Rockefeller Drug Laws: Unjust, Irrational, Ineffective (2009)


There has emerged over the last decade a broad consensus among policy experts, criminal justice scholars and lawmakers that the War on Drugs, with its singular emphasis on incarceration, has failed. In 1993, on the 20th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, New York State Corrections Commissioner Thomas Coughlin, III, said the state was “lock[ing] up the wrong people … for the wrong reasons.” Former Republican state senator John Dunne was a sponsor of the state’s mandatory sentencing scheme for drug offenses. He subsequently organized a coalition that has advocated for fundamental reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. In 2004 he observed, in a television spot, “the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been a well-documented failure.”

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