The Rockefeller Drug Reform Sham

"We should

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

remain imprisoned.

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 "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.

For over

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

the walls.

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