N.Y. lawmakers revisit Rockefeller drug laws
Democratic state lawmakers are looking to repeal the narcotics laws collectively known as the Rockefeller drug laws, which opponents say carry mandatory sentences that are unfairly harsh.
The bill proposed by legislators would roll back mandatory sentences and allow judges to sentence offenders to treatment rather than prison, which they say would ease prison overcrowding.
Republicans who represent Long Island in Albany were reluctant to talk to News 12 Long Island in support of the repeal. A spokesperson, however, says GOP senators are concerned that offenders would use the treatment option as a "get out of jail free card."
Eric Marsh, now a drug counselor on Long Island, says he was a victim of the Rockefeller drug laws. He was charged with possession of a small amount of cocaine in 1990. On the testimony of an accomplice, he was convicted of selling drugs, and received a mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison.
Marsh was granted clemency by Gov. George Pataki after serving 11 years. Since leaving prison, he's earned a master?s degree and counsels drug users. He is active in the movement to repeal the drug laws.
"I believe that it is a waste of money, a waste of effort and a waste of a person's life to put them in jail for using drugs," Marsh says.
Marsh, like many other supporters of repeal, says rehabilitation is a much better solution.
?Treating addiction with incarceration is tantamount to curing dandruff with decapitation,? Marsh says.
And under the proposed repeal, special drug offender courts would be set up in each county. Sentences could include probation and treatment for most non-violent offenders. Gov. David Paterson is on record as in support of changes to the Rockefeller drug laws.
AP wire reports contributed to this article.