be ashamed of ourselves," he said. "Rockefeller drug reform – ha!
– I don’t think so." State Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan)
While many are
praising the recent reform of the Rockefeller drug laws, many more are not.
Although the reform bill will reduce the most severe
mandatory sentences for drug offenses, according to data from the New York State
Department of Correctional Services, the reform change will
affect only 446 prisoners, 15,600 felons imprisoned under the drug law will
Even with the proposed
revisions, New York still has the harshest drug-sentencing laws in the country.
According to Donna Lieberman executive director of the New York Civil Liberties,
"Absent structural changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws – which requires
restoring to judges the authority to order treatment as an alternative to sentencing
– we will not have meaningful reform." According to the NYCLU
the new law will leave in place sentencing procedures that give prosecutors
authority to charge and sentence.
Judges have no
discretion over sentencing. Prosecutors can demand a sentence of ten years for
an addict with no criminal record who is induced by a dealer to deliver four
ounces of a drug to a buyer. A judge who believes justice — and the public
interest — would be best served by ordering the defendant to treatment rather
than prison is prevented from doing so and if the judge did have discretion
to send the person to drug treatment and nowhere in the reform bill is there
funding for drug treatment programs. The new law will also do little or nothing
to reform the harsh sentences imposed on "B" felons, those charged
with lesser drug offenses, the NYCLU said.
For example, an individual who is caught with a gram of a controlled substance,
but has a prior offense still faces 3 _ to 12 years in prison. The majority
of drug offenders serving time in New York prisons are non-violent B felons.
So once again the Hip Hop community, who are the overwhelming victims of these
drug laws, have been hoodwinked.
because of the artists. There’s no way that it would have happened without the
help of Jay-Z and Puffy and all the people who contributed,"
Simmons told AllHipHop.com. "All those people really worked hard, they
pushed, and it’s really the power of hip-hop that made that happen.
People came out, it was a big deal."
once again Russell Simmons is wrong, misinformed and his praise of this reform
bill has me questioning the relevance of him and his organization. I know that
by even critiquing the so called "Hip Hop leader"
that I open myself to attacks, some folks will say I am player hating, but what
can I do, I am a true Hip Hopper, I try to be a voice for the voiceless and
ultimately I am more concerned about the impact of this sham and the 15,600
majority Black and Brown folks that will continue to sit in upstate prisons.
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. 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 Governor and his Republican and Democratic cohorts knew they had to do something,
and so they did nothing.
twenty years, activists like Randy Credico, Anthony Pappa, and Elaine Bartlett
have fought tirelessly to repeal these laws. Randy
director of the Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and an organizer of the group
Mothers of the New York Disappeared said in The New York Times
that he is faced with calling many of the group’s members, he said, and tell
them their children "are not coming home."
In the last five
years the Drop the Rock, a coalition spearheaded by Robert Ganagi and the Correctional
Association of New York and composed of young community activists, veteran criminal
justice reformers, artists, students, former inmates, politicians, and religious,
civic, and labor leaders have also worked hard to repeal these draconian laws.
What happened in Albany 48 hours ago was a de-service to all the people who
dedicated themselves to this movement.
So it’s now time
to dust ourselves off and dig into the trenches. We should no longer as a community
be satisfied, with answers that leave more questions. Amilcar Cabral, leader
of the Guinea-Bissau liberation struggle once stated, "Tell no lies, expose
lies wherever they are told, mask no difficulties, mistakes nor failures, claim
no easy victories." We cannot claim victories that are not real, when Russell
stated in the New York times "I am very, very happy" we must ask the
question what is he happy about. It is time Hip Hop start speaking truth to
power, loudly and clearly, whether we speak loudly to a Governor or a "Hip
Hop mogul" the point is that we speak truth, anything less would be a disservice
to Hip Hop culture and to the 15,600 brothers and sisters that will stay behind
Rosa Clemente is
a Hip-Hop activist, a journalist with WBAI Radio in New York City and a member
of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. She can be reached at Knowthyself@mac.com