Thirty Years of Rockefeller Drug Laws

The draconian law hits a milestone as activists continue to hope for much needed reform.
On May 8, 2003 New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws turn 30. For mere human beings, reaching the age of thirty is a magical turning point that catapults some of us into the seriousness of adulthood from our days of youthful indiscretion. But, for this draconian entity there was no magical transition. Enacted in 1973, the laws are as serious and tough as when they were born, with no substantive reform of them in sight for the near future.

Of course, if you listen to the political rhetoric that has been around for the past couple of years you would bet your last dollar that change is coming. However, for those of us who have heard this story before, the 30th year holds nothing more than empty promises and broken dreams for those affected by the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

In 2001, for the first time in 28 years a governor of New York was bold enough to call for reform. Pataki's cue was followed by the Senate and Assembly which agreed that these laws should be changed. Bills were submitted, arguments were made with each side blaming each other for the quagmire. In the mean time, those imprisoned are rotting away in the gulags of New York State. No better off are the family members of those incarcerated, whose hopes and aspirations are slowly dying.

On May 8 at 12 noon across the street from Governor Pataki's New York City office at 40th and 3rd avenue, a celebration of sorts will take place for the "30" anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It will not be a happy gathering, but hopefully it will be the last. It's organized by the New York Mothers of the Disappeared in its continuing attempt to change these laws.

Also at the rally a major announcement will be made by Andrew Cuomo, Russell Simmons and the Hip Hop Nation telling the governor that "Countdown to Fairness" is being initiated for repeal of the Rockefellers Drug Laws.

Many speakers, politicians and protesters will pledge their alliance for reform, trying to see beyond the political rhetoric that divides them; they hope to walk on common ground and change the laws that have slept though the shadow of change for the last 30 years.

Anthony Papa served 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws and was granted clemency by Governor Pataki in 1997. He is the author of "15 to Life".
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