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The Rockefeller Drug Laws

Sentences for drug offenders in New York State are among the most punitive in the nation. The harshest provision of the Rockefeller Drug laws requires that a judge impose a prison term of no less that 15 years to life for anyone convicted of selling 2 ounces or possessing 4 ounces of a narcotic.

This is a Class A felony. Persons convicted of Class A felonies receive the same maximum sentences of people convicted of murder and are punished more severely than those convicted of rape or manslaughter. Over 70% of women convicted of drug offenses have never committed a violent crime. Their crime, overwhelmingly, is their addiction to drugs and the sale and use of that drug to support their addiction.

The harsh sentences of the Rockefeller Drug Laws apply without regard to the circumstances of the offense or the individual's character or background. Judges are denied the right to "judge" based on a person's role in the offense or their threat to society. Mandatory minimums also prevent a judge from diverting appropriate individuals into community based alternatives to incarceration treatment programs. These ineffective, inhumane and expensive drug laws have severely and disproportionately affected women.

Women are overwhelmingly low level nonviolent offenders who are selling or possessing drugs to support their own habits. However, women, usually in the role of drug mules or "one time carriers" are sentenced in the same felony class as high level king pins. They are much more likely to receive longer sentences because they are much less likely to know any information which would help them plea-bargain a reduced sentence. Since judges have no discretion, this is the only way an individual can receive a reduced sentence. Judges are overwhelmingly against these laws which have resulted in tragic and untold human and economic losses.


New York Correctional Association: Women in Prison Project

The Sentencing Project

Drug Policy Alliance

Prison Moratorium Project

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights and the Drug War

Breaking the Chains
www.breaking the

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