The Rockefeller Drug Laws: America's War on Drugs: a War We Are Causing, a War We Can Solve

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Since the Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed in 1973 under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, New York State has had the harshest sentencing for low-level, non-violent drug offenders of any other state in the nation. Under these laws, those convicted of drug offenses face the same penalties as those convicted of murder, and harsher penalties that those convicted of rape. (Sullum, 1) Though the laws were first enacted to curb the late-1960s-early-1970s psychedelic drug epidemic, New York's drug problem in fact worsened in the 1980s with the use of stimulants, and thus the laws were reformed to be less lenient. These unforgiving laws, which place enormous minimum sentences for drug-sale convictions, prove to be ineffective and expensive and have…show more content…
The Republican-dominated Senate is reluctant to offer lenient sentencing as a way to reduce prison overpopulation. Senator Dale M. Volker, a Republican from Depew, NY, said the question is one of law and order. "We just have to be careful that we don't allow dangerous criminals to walk into the community on a regular basis" (Lyall, 2) The Republicans are cautious about relying on community drug treatment programs and other alternatives to incarceration even though it is proven that alcoholism and addiction are diseases, which is why they should be addressed as health issues rather than criminal justice issues. And while imprisonment only removes a symptom, it does not cure the problem.

New York, one of the capitalist centers of America, is assumed to be a state that loves money. If this is true, then why is New York willing to waste millions, soon to be billions, of dollars investing in trying to fix something knowing that the problem will only cycle? Other states have begun to introduce the rehabilitation reforms into their communities and have already begun to reap the benefits. “In Arizona, taxpayers saved 2.6 million dollars in the first year after legislation passed mandating drug treatment instead of prison for non-violent drug offenders.” (Population, 3) This trend should have swept the nation by now; New York should have already learned from

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