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August 18, 2007

The enduring challenge of reforming harsh mandatory sentencing laws

This new Time magazine article spotlights the enduring challenge of reforming harsh mandatory sentencing laws, even in a seemingly progressive state like New York.  Here are snippets from the article:

The most painful thing to Cheri O'Donaghue about her son's incarceration on drug charges is not the imprisonment itself, but that he is serving the sentence that should go to a narcotics kingpin when all he committed, she says, was the crime of a small-time pusher.  Her son Ashley was found guilty of delivering cocaine to two college students in upstate New York in 2003. He was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, a penalty mandated by New York's controversial Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ashley is among about 14,000 people sent to New York prisons under the Rockefeller laws, in force since 1973, which impose harsh mandatory minimum terms on even first time offenders — meaning they could get the same sentence as a person convicted of second degree murder.

O'Donaghue once had hope for a positive change in her son's situation.  That was because there was a movement to change the Rockefeller laws.  The momentum behind that reform, however, has now stagnated as prosecutors and legislators fear that changes in the law are being used as loopholes to free drug lords. With no light at the end of the tunnel, she and other activists fighting for a repeal feel the laws may never change and many of the state's imprisoned — her son included — continue to languish in jail.  "The movement is definitely stalled, and we're trying to gain some momentum again, but it's very hard," said O'Donaghue.

August 18, 2007 at 09:12 PM | Permalink


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This is the first I've heard of this law, but "fear that changes in the law are being used as loopholes to free drug lords" caught my eye as a probable lie.

And it seems to be more fear mongering.


Posted by: George | Aug 18, 2007 10:57:03 PM

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