New York State Assembly to Vote on Reforming Rockefeller Drug Laws on Wednesday, April 18; Press Conference with Family Members, Legislators, Others at 10 a.m.

Press Release April 15, 2007
Media Contact

Gabriel Sayegh at 646-335-2264 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

On Wednesday, April 18, New York State Assembly is expected to vote on legislation which would further reform New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, widely considered the nation’s harshest. Advocates and family members affected by these draconian laws will join legislators at a 10 a.m. press conference to demand meaningful reforms. Following the press conference, there will be a screening of a new documentary about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, called Lockdown, USA. The screening is being sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, NY State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, Senator Eric Schneiderman, Senator Jose Serrano, and Drug Policy Alliance.

Assembly Bill 6663, introduced by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (Chair, Assembly Standing Committee on Correction), would expand drug treatment for people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, and continue sentencing reform by allowing certain people serving time for “B” felonies to apply for resentencing–a key piece missing in changes to the law made in 2004 and 2005. The bill would also increase judicial discretion and allow for some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison.

“The last small reform to the Rockefeller Drug Laws was 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. “Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver, and Governor Spitzer have all promised real reform. The Assembly is acting–where is the Senate and the Governor? These inhumane, racist laws have been around for nearly 34 years, and 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 did not increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by the modest reforms, they are clear that the recent reforms have no 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.

Advocates and legislators will screen Lockdown, USA, a new documentary which follows the unlikely coalition working to change the Rockefeller Drug Laws: outraged mothers and community members, formerly incarcerated people, hip-hop community leaders, and many more. The documentary, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2006 and has screened a film festivals around the world, captures the series of events that forced the political establishment to reconcile with the burgeoning movement to repeal the draconian, racist Rockefeller Drug Laws. Hip-hop megastar and multi-platinum artist Jim Jones recently recorded a new single about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which is set for release with the film in early June 2007.

What: Press conference about the Rockefeller Drug Laws and Assembly Bill 6663; Screening of Lockdown, USA follows immediately after press conference.
When: Wednesday, April 18, at 10 a.m.
Where: LOB Room 711a.
Who: Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry; Senator Eric Schneiderman; Senator Jose Serrano; the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; Cheri O’Donoghue, mother of prisoner serving 7 to 21 years for first-time, nonviolent drug offense under Rockefeller Drug Laws; Albany County District Attorney David Soares; Terrence Stevens, ex-non-violent drug offender, who served nine years under Rockefeller Drug Laws.

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

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