FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Twisted Logic of Drug Laws

by ANTHONY PAPA

Robert Chambers served 15 years in prison for the notorious murder of Jennifer Levin in 1986. He claimed that he accidentally strangled Levin during rough sex. Despite his horrific crime, Chambers was allowed to plead guilty to first degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years. Now, 21 years later, Chambers has been arrested for selling cocaine to undercover officers and faces top felony counts that can mean life in prison. As the case unfolds, it is apparent that Chambers, along with his girlfriend Shawn Kovell, who was also arrested, are both heavily addicted to drugs. They were described as “crack heads” by detectives who searched their disheveled upper-eastside apartment. Despite significant evidence against him, Chambers has pleaded not guilty to charges that can land him sentences of 15 to 30 years on each count under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Those who remember the details of his 1986 case will have no sympathy for Chambers. He ended the life of an 18-year-old girl and caused tremendous grief for her family. Chambers also has a history of drug addiction. While in prison, he served additional time for smuggling and selling drugs. A year after his release in 2003, he was again arrested while driving with a suspended license and officers found drug residue in his car. He pled guilty and served 100 days on a misdemeanor charge.

I am not advocating for Chambers despite the fact that he has a severe drug addiction. I am instead pointing out the that the most outrageous fact of this case is that Chambers faces more time now for a drug offense under the Rockefeller Drug Laws than he did for taking Levin’s life. There is something very wrong with this equation. There are literally thousands of nonviolent Rockefeller offenders serving longer sentences than people who commit rape or murder. For example, Ashley O’Donoghue is serving a 7-to- 21 year sentence for a B felony. Many of them are first-time, nonviolent offenders who made mistakes in their lives and are sitting in prison despite two minor reforms made by the legislature in 2004 and 2005. Of the one thousand people eligible for relief, only about 350 individuals have been freed to date.

Governor Spitzer recently put together a panel to study the disparity of sentencing guidelines in New York State. One of the issues they were to study is the Rockefeller Drug Laws. In its recently released preliminary report, the commission failed to address the issue of Rockefeller Drug Law reform. Denise O’Donnell, state commissioner of criminal justice services and chairwoman of the Commission on Sentencing Reform, said the issue would be addressed next time. The final report is due in March of 2008.

The evidence is in. The issue does not need any more studies. It needs political will and action. The panel must consider the families of those incarcerated, those rotting away in prison, and the precious tax dollars being wasted on its archaic sentencing structure. There are hundreds of nonviolent Rockefeller offenders in prison serving longer sentences than those of convicted murderers for what is essentially a moral crime. Something is fundamentally wrong with a system that advocates serving more time for a nonviolent drug offense then for a hideous crime committed by a sociopath like Robert Chambers. This problem needs to be fixed now-not “next time.”

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

Papa’s artwork can be viewed at: www.15yearstolife.com/art1.htm

 

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail