Pubdate: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The Gazette Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090
Fax: (518) 395-3072
Author: Mary Mortimore
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


I am a mother and grandmother, with a 35-year-old son, William, and a 
36-year-old son, Jeffrey. Both are in prison under the Rockefeller Drug 
Laws. Jeffrey has served nine years of a 15- to 30-year sentence - his 
first conviction - for a sale of 2.89 grams (one-tenth of an ounce) of 
cocaine. William has served 10 years of his 10- to 20-year sentence for a 
sale of 1.97 grams of cocaine.

For more than a decade, I have learned firsthand what it is like to be a 
casualty of the war on drugs. I am living through the destruction that 
mandatory minimum sentence laws cause to families.

I could not agree with Gov. Pataki more when he said in his State of the 
State speech that it is time for dramatic reform of the Rockefeller Drug 
Laws. It is because of these laws that I am now raising four grandchildren, 
some of whom were in diapers when their fathers were locked away. It is 
because of these laws that I have had to summon the rest of my strength to 
persistently advocate for Jeffrey and William.

As long as my sons languish in prison, their children and I are locked 
behind those same walls.

The governor's recent words gave me and my entire family great hope. 
However, it was devastating for us to hear that Gov. Pataki's actual plan 
for reform overlooked families like mine. The proposal he released will 
only let a small fraction of New York's drug prisoners appeal to have their 
sentences re-evaluated.

Only A-1 offenders - those who received the harshest penalty of 15 
years-to-life - would be able to petition for retroactive sentencing. They 
would be eligible for a reduction to 10 years' minimum-to-life, or 8 
years-to-life on appeal. Prisoners like my sons would not see a reduction 
in their sentences, even though they were convicted for lesser offenses.

I don't think that it is humane for us to continue with mandatory 
sentencing at any level. How does it make sense to let my sons serve longer 
sentences than required for some of the more serious offenses?

We need justice for the many, not just clemency for the few.

Mary Mortimore

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