The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Gabriel Sayegh 646-335-2264

Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Becomes Active Tomorrow: 1,500 Incarcerated People Eligible for Resentencing and Release, Judges Now Have Discretion

Governor Paterson to Mark Milestone at Brooklyn Courthouse on Wednesday at 10 a.m.


On Wednesday, October 7, key elements of the Rockefeller Drug Law
reform go into effect: Decision making authority is returned to judges,
who can now divert people suffering from drug dependency into treatment
and other service programs, instead of prison. And nearly 1,500 people
currently incarcerated for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses under
the Rockefeller Drug Laws can petition the court for resentencing and,
if approved by a judge, will be released.

After Governor David Paterson signed the reforms into law earlier
this year, advocates and service providers have worked diligently to
prepare for implementation. Legal aid and public defender agencies are
providing legal counsel. Hundreds of social and human agencies around
the state have volunteered to provide a broad range of services to
those individuals who will be released from prison as a result of drug
law reform. In New York City alone, over 100 human service agencies
have agreed to work with legal aid and public defender agencies to
provide services like housing, job training and drug treatment to those
individuals returning from prison as a result of drug law reform.

"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," said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. "But,
Rockefeller 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."

"New Yorkers fought for decades to reform the draconian Rockefeller
Drug Laws, and we finally succeeded this year," said Gabriel Sayegh of
the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now we need to make Rockefeller reform work.
Today marks another step towards our state moving in new direction on
drug policy, one based on public health and safety. Thankfully, legal
and human service agencies are stepping up to implement reform."

"Rockefeller Drug Law reform symbolizes a critical time in our
history, where we acknowledge the individual stories and personal
struggles of those who have been most affected by such a harsh and
racist sentencing scheme," said Shreya Mandal, Mitigation Specialist
for the Legal Aid Society. "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 model. Now it is time to see this
reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with
comprehensive re-entry planning."

Governor Paterson will be marking the milestone at an event at 10
a.m. at the Brooklyn Court House, 320 Jay St., Room 283. In addition to
the Governor, two drug court graduates will speak at the event.

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

(212) 613-8020