NYCLU Co-Sponsors Demonstration to Strike Down Rockefeller Drug Laws

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
August 30, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union today joined a coalition of 50 organizations speaking out against laws and conditions that adversely impact poor people. The Still We Rise coalition will gather today near Union Square Park to march up Eighth Avenue to Madison Square Garden on the opening day of the Republican National Convention. The participants will rally around issues such as HIV awareness, housing and immigration policy, as well as the effort to bring real reform to the onerous Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State.

“The Rockefeller Drug Laws have had a devastating impact on people of color, and New York’s legislature has dallied too long in rolling back these laws,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Surveys show the majority of people favor replacing prison sentences with mandatory drug treatment and probation for people convicted of non-violent drug use. But New York has the harshest sentencing option for low-level, non-violent drug offenders of any other state in the country.”

Although drug use has been shown to be almost equal across economic and racial lines, 94 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses in New York are people of color. The Rand Corporation estimates that incarceration costs 15 times more than drug treatment for each individual and rolling back these laws can save taxpayers an estimated $164 million per year.

The NYCLU will have observers at other demonstrations today, including demonstrations at the Plaza Hotel and near the United Nations. The organization said it would file complaints about the treatment of some participants whose rights were violated by aggressive police practices and will continue to document all instances of abuse throughout the week at all significant protest events.

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