Pubdate: Mon, 23 Mar 2009
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2009 The New York Times Company
Author: Anthony Papa


To the Editor:

Re "A $20 Bag, and What Might Have Been" (Dispatches, March 1),
about the Rockefeller drug laws and Louis Carrasquillo, who served 12
1/2 years for selling $20 worth of crack cocaine:

Unfortunately, Mr. Carrasquillo's story is a typical one. When I
arrived at Sing Sing prison in 1985 to serve a 15-year-to-life
sentence under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller laws, I
soon found out that many of the prisoners had drug habits and were
serving long sentences for possessing small amounts of drugs.

Most of them should have gotten treatment instead of incarceration but
did not. This was primarily because of the design of the laws, under
which district attorneys control who goes to drug treatment and who
doesn't. In fact, district attorneys are rewarded for convicting
someone, not for placing them into treatment. This is why judges
should maintain discretion in determining who goes to treatment, not
district attorneys.

This month, the Assembly passed legislation that would return judicial
discretion to judges and offer treatment instead of jail for low-level
offenders. It is time for the Senate and Governor Paterson to help
reform these laws.

Anthony Papa

Long Island City

The author is a communications specialist with the Drug Policy
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