Hip-Hop Megastar Jim Jones Calls on Spitzer, NY Legislature to Enact Real Reform of Racist Rockefeller Drug Laws with New Song and Video

Press Release May 7, 2007
Media Contact

gabriel sayegh at 646-335-2264 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

New York City – Today, Hip-Hop Megastar Jim Jones marked the 34th anniversary of New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws by releasing his new rap single “Lockdown, USA,” a powerful song calling for real reform of the laws. The song is a single from the forthcoming documentary, Lockdown, USA. The new song and video are being released on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance as part of the Real Reform New York Coalition’s continuing struggle to win real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Real Reform New York is made up of dozens of organizations representing thousands of community members, activists, advocates, policy and treatment experts, survivors, their friends and families that have joined to reform these 34 year old laws. The Coalition seeks to replace the ineffective laws with cost effective, community-based alternatives that promote the principles of restorative justice.

Jones, a member of the popular hip hop crew The Diplomats, rocketed to stardom on the success of his smash hit, “We Fly High,” the number one rap single on the Billboard Monitor Rap Chart, from the number one album on the Billboard Independent Chart, Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment). Raised in Harlem’a community that has been hard-hit by the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws – Jones has seen first-hand the racially discriminatory impact of these laws, making his call for reform on “Lockdown, USA” that much more meaningful.

“Small changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws were clearly not enough. My son Ashley is a prime example of this, because he is serving a 7- to 21-year sentence for a first-time, nonviolent offense,” said Cheri O’Donoghue, an advocate for Real Reform New York. “These inhumane, racist laws have been around for nearly 34 years. Enough is enough.”

New York’s Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 (DLRA) lowered some drug sentences but it fell far short of allowing most people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms, and it did nothing to increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by these modest reforms, it is clear that the recent reforms have had a negligible impact on the majority of people behind bars. Most people behind bars on Rockefeller charges are charged with nonviolent lower-level or class-B felonies.

“Given the extraordinary racism associated with these laws, it’s unbelievable they’ve been around for 34 years,” said Gabriel Sayegh, project director at Drug Policy Alliance. “We hope that this powerful song will inspire the thousands who attended the 2003 Lockdown, USA rally – and all outraged New Yorkers – to pick up the phone and step into the streets to put heat on Governor Spitzer and State Senator Joe Bruno – to make them keep their word and reform these inhumane laws.”

The Jones single was created as a companion to the feature Lockdown, USA a documentary, co-directed by Rebecca Chaiklin and Michael Skolnik, set on the front lines of hip-hop impresario, Russell Simmons’s dramatic campaign to end the war on drugs and repeal New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. The film explores the human impact of these laws through the eyes of Wanda Best, whose husband was sentenced to 15-years-to-life as a first-time, nonviolent drug law offender. This inspirational film interweaves the story of the Best family with a behind-the-scenes look at Russell Simmons’s colorful, unorthodox mission to politicize the hip-hop community and bring an end to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The film will be released later this year.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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