About 440 so-called A-1 felons are eligible to be released or to have their sentences reduced under changes to New York’s Rockfeller-era drug laws that Gov. George E. Pataki signed last week, the New York Times says. The group is in some ways very different from the general prison population, and even from lower-level drug offenders.
It turns out that almost half of the A-1 felons were born outside the U.S., coming from about 20 different countries. The largest group by far after native New Yorkers, which account for more than a quarter of the A-1’s, is from the Dominican Republic. About 55 percent of the A-1 felons are Hispanic, while the overall prison population is less than 30 percent Hispanic. Though much of the impetus for changing the laws has come from black leaders, only a third of the A-1’s are black. Blacks make up about half of the total prison population and almost 60 percent of lower-level drug offenders. Just 8 percent of the A-1’s are white; whites make up 18 percent of the total prison population. The new law, which takes effect next month, reduces sentences for the most serious drug crimes to eight to 20 years, and allows the A-1 felons now imprisoned under the Rockefeller laws to ask a judge to re-sentence them under the new range.