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:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail