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Dame Dash, Activists Disagree Over Rockefeller Bill

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Tomorrow Russell Simmons and Ben Chavis of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network will be present to sign a new bill to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws, but the resolution has been met with community opponents who still seek complete reform.

In a statement, mogul Dame Dash explained his own disdain for the laws and called for the removal of them.

Dash said, “Roc-A-Fella Records and Roc-A-Wear clothing is committed to use its resources to repeal unfair drug laws that devastate our communities. The Hip-Hop Community can now use its newfound political power to make a difference for those that are now unfairly incarcerated and for the total repeal of the laws.”

Todd Feurtado, Director of the King of Kings Foundation, said that the business of prisons has created a climate where the Rockefeller Drug Laws are necessary for entrepreneurs. “When you are constantly building more prisons you need laws like the Rockefeller Drug Laws to keep them full. We need to make sure that the next generation understands the game better than we did,” he said.

But Simmons maintained that the reforms are merely an initial step towards continued progress in the laws.

“A lot of people are going to come home as a result of the retroactives,” Simmons told AllHipHop.com in a previous interview. “This is the first step. There [are] laws like this all over the country.”

“Of course we wanted more, but it’s as much as we could have realistically hoped for and we finally broke the stalemate,” he said.

In fact, Simmons gave credit to the Hip-Hop community for raising the tremendous awareness of the laws, which were largely unknown. In the past, a coalition of artists and leaders, which included Jay-Z, Joe Budden, Memphis Bleek, Susan Sarandon and others, all sought the repeal or reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

Rosa Clemente, local social activist, has stated that the new bill will affect about 446 prisoners, but more than 15,600 will remain imprisoned under unfair pretense.

“Some progress to repeal the laws has been made and I congratulate all those that contributed to this worthwhile cause, especially Russell Simmons and the hip-hop community, but we don’t believe the fight should stop here,” said Charles Fisher of Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council.

New York Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will sign the bill at the governors office tomorrow (Dec. 14). On Dec. 13, negotiators reached a bi-partisan legislative agreement regarding reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws’ sentencing provisions.

“As someone who has been part of the campaign to repeal these laws, repeal not reform, I along with many activists are not at all happy with this compromise reform bill,” Clemente said. “Once again, our elected officials, those that are supposed to serve the interest of the people, have pulled the wool over our eyes, and just at the right time. November 2005 is a huge election year in New York, what a perfect way to appease the electorate. Governor Pataki and other elected officials are up for reelection in 2005, we should remember this betrayal when we go to the election booths.”

The three-decades-old drug laws were enacted by John D. Rockefeller when he was governor of New York. The laws require mandatory prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs.

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