Drop the Rock Renewed
Things–and times–change. Happily aware of this fact, the CA has renewed its commitment to Drop the Rock, our state-wide campaign promoting repeal of the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws that were enacted in 1973.
So what has changed? Why think, as we do, that the 2008 legislative session offers a historic opportunity to move this issue?
First, New York has a new governor, Eliot Spitzer, who promised drug law reform in his 2006 campaign, and word from inside Albany’s corridors is that he is now preparing to fulfill that commitment. Also, Spitzer established a Sentencing Reform Commission whose published findings, whatever their content, will inevitably focus attention on the state’s most prominent sentencing issue, namely the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
We have brought on board a full-time organizer, Caitlin Dunklee, who will coordinate our efforts. In the coming months, the CA will join with our allies in elected office and the drug policy reform movement to engage in activities aimed at advancing our repeal agenda, including educating the public about these key matters:
- The so-called reforms enacted in 2004 and 2005 were far too modest, leaving the laws’ mandatory provisions intact. Judges still do not have discretion at sentencing and more people convicted of low-level drug crimes are being sent to prison–6,039 in 2006 as compared to 5,657 in 2004.
- It costs the state over $510 million a year to confine the over 13,900 people convicted of drug crimes in our prisons.
- The drug laws are racist in their application. 91% of the people doing time in New York State prisons for a drug offense are African-American or Latino, despite research showing that the vast majority of drug users are white.
- Under the drug laws, the main criterion for culpability still depends on the weight of the drugs in a person’s possession when he or she is apprehended, not on the actual role played in the narcotics transaction. Aware of the law’s emphasis, drug kingpins will rarely carry narcotics. It is the drug couriers, or “mules,” who get caught literally holding the bag and face lengthy prison terms.
These laws continue to have a devastating effect on low-income families and communities of color. Moreover, they foster irrational law enforcement practices. For example, research and experience tell us that alternative programs are more effective and less expensive than imprisonment, yet the imposition of mandatory sentencing laws limits the court’s ability to use them appropriately. In fact, it is fair to state that as long as the Rockefeller Drug Laws remain on the books, New York’s governor and legislature of 35 years ago have more say in determining the outcomes of today’s narcotics cases than the judges who sit on the bench and hear all the evidence presented.
The Rockefeller Drug Laws are outdated, wasteful, ineffective, unjust, and marked by an undeniable racial bias. It is long past time to eradicate their stain from New York’s penal code.
CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons
(January 9, 2016) New York, NY: The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. It is now up to the members of both parties in the NYS Legislature to do their duty to make this a reality. In spite of the Governor’s assertion that the "nation looks to NY to find a way up," we actually fall behind 48 other states, along with North Carolina, by continuing to treat children as adults in the criminal legal system. New York must Raise the Age of criminal responsibility this legislative session. Read More
To the Editor: Re “Serving as a Role Model During a Father’s Absence” (The Neediest Cases, Dec. 21): It’s nice to see young Jaylen benefit from the MentorCHIP program. But children whose parents are incarcerated need regular visits with their parents. Studies show that children’s emotional, scholastic and social adjustment improve when they have regularly [...]Read More
Reports & Research
The Correctional Association of NY conducted in depth interviews with 30 people currently incarcerated at Clinton on August 19 and 20, 2015, and corresponded with many more people held at the prison over the last few months. The information reported provides further confirmation of both extensive staff brutality in the aftermath of the June escape [...]Read More
Prison Monitoring Reports
Auburn was the first prison to implement the “Auburn System,” a system of incarceration in which incarcerated people worked in groups during the day, were housed in solitary cells during the night, and lived in enforced silence. Today, Auburn Correctional Facility operates as a maximum security, DOCCS-operated prison for men ages 21 and older.Read More