Thousands of protesters, including some big names in hip-hop rallied yesterday in New York City to demand repeal of laws that can send first-time offenders to prison for up to life for possessing or selling small quantities of drugs, says the Los Angeles Times.
Such favorites as Fat Joe, Jay-Z and Sean “P Diddy” Combs appeared to urge Gov. George E. Pataki and the state Legislature to abandon the laws, passed 30 years ago during the administration of Gov. Nelson Rockefellers.
“We are going to win on this issue in the next few days,” predicted Russell Simmons, the hip-hop impresario who was a principal rally organizer.
However, reformers have tried for many years to make the laws more flexible, without success. Prosecutors oppose major changes, saying the number of defendants who actually receive stiff mandatory terms for minor offenses is small. Most cases result in plea bargains, they point out, and first-time offenders may receive probation.
Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders agree that sentences for low-level addicts and minor sellers who are not repeat offenders are too tough, but differ on what role the courts should play.