Latino coalition urges drug law reform

NEW YORK – Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer joined New York State Assemblymen Peter Rivera and Jeffrion Aubry, and Latino Health and Justice Coalition leaders Dec. 6 to call on Gov. George Pataki to support the New York State Assembly’s plan for Rockefeller Drug Law Reform this year during the planned upcoming special legislative session.

“The time for major reform is now,” said Ferrer. “New York voters are ready for Governor Pataki to deliver on the promise he made almost a year ago.”

“One important way for Governor Pataki to address his special concerns for the Latino community is to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws and to address the twin epidemics of drug abure and HIV/AIDS,” added Rivera.

“Tens of millions have been wasted in locking up Latinos with drug use problems rather than offering them needed drug treatment or harm reduction services,” said Lorraine Cortez-Vazquez, president of the Hispanic Federation.

“I am pleased to be with the Bronx borough president, my colleague Peter Rivera and so many other leaders in calling on Governor Pataki to complete reform on the Rockefeller Drug Laws this year. The Assembly proposal clearly emphasizes the belief that rehabilitation is preferable to incarceration. This proposal is fair, effective, and cost efficient,” said Aubrey.

State legislators may be called to meet on Dec. 17 for a special session to resolve legislative issues that were on hold as a result of the events of Sept. 11.

The session will give Gov. Pataki the opportunity to make good on his promise of meaningful reform of these laws, which are among the harshest mandatory minimum drug laws in the nation.

Critics say the Rockefeller Drug Laws are draconian and discriminatory. Despite research demonstrating that drug use levels are roughly the same across all demographic groups, Latinos and African-Americans account for 94 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses in the state.