Tony Newman at 510-208-7711
As the deadline for reform of the Rockefeller drug laws for 2001 approaches, a major Spanish-speaking television, radio and print advertising campaign was launched today in popular media outlets around New York. The campaign targets Governor George Pataki, demanding that he keep his promise of meaningful reform of these laws, which are among the harshest mandatory minimum drug laws in the nation.
Though they make up just 15% of New York’s overall population, Latinos account for 43.8% of drug law violators incarcerated in the state. Research has demonstrated that drug use levels are roughly the same across all demographic groups.
Numerous New York religious and political leaders, including the late John Cardinal O’Connor and Fernando Ferrer, have come out in favor of reforming these laws, which require lengthy prison sentences even for first-time, non-violent offenders.
The ad campaign was announced today by the Campaign for Effective Criminal Justice (CECJ), an organization of over a dozen distinguished leaders in law enforcement, politics, business, and clergy.
The ads – on television, radio, and an extensive, full-color newspaper insert — deliver variations on a pointed message: “Governor Pataki, the time to fulfill your promise of dramatic Rockefeller drug law reform is now. Latino families are watching. No justice, no votes.”
“This campaign gives a powerful voice in Albany to the thousands of Latinos waiting to be reunited with loved ones serving cruel sentences for non-violent drug offenses,” said Felix Lopez of the Legal Action Center. “They know it will take more than political rhetoric and symbolic attempts at ‘reform’ to bring their family members home — and they are very disappointed with Governor Pataki’s most recent proposal.”
The radio and television ads begin a two week run today, on Univision (TV), Amor 93.1 (WPAT), and Mega 97.9 (WSKQ) of New York City. The print ad will appear on Thursday, August 30, in El Diario, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in New York.
Governor Pataki first announced his intent to “dramatically reform” the Rockefeller laws during his state of state address in January. But critics quickly noted that his actual proposal – which he later released — would allow only three per cent of drug offenders currently serving long prison terms for non-violent offenses to appeal for a reduction in their sentences.
The New York State Assembly, by contrast, has proposed a bill which offers retroactive sentencing adjustments to a broader category of drug offenders, and provides funding to expand drug treatment.
“If Governor Pataki is serious about delivering on his promise to New York – and to the Latino community – he will support the Assembly bill,” said Anthony Miranda of the Latino Officers Association. “And as he makes up his mind, he should realize: Latino families, and voters, are watching.”