Tough on crime and families: New York's Rockefeller drug laws have jailed thousands with harsh mandatory sentences.Thirteen-year-old Janizabeth Estevez doesn't understand why her father is still in jail. He didn't commit murder, rape, or arson. And yet he has been incarcerated incarcerated /in·car·cer·at·ed/ (in-kahr´ser-at?ed) imprisoned; constricted; subjected to incarceration.
Confined or trapped, as a hernia. for 11 years.
Frankie Estevez was sentenced to 18 years to life for translating in a narcotics narcotics n. 1) techinically, drugs which dull the senses. 2) a popular generic term for drugs which cannot be legally possessed, sold, or transported except for medicinal uses for which a physician or dentist's prescription is required. deal--even though no drugs were found when he was arrested. Estevez was sentenced under New York's get-tough-on-crime Rockefeller drug laws The Rockefeller drug laws is the term used to denote the statutes dealing with the sale and possession of "narcotic" drugs in the New York State Penal Law. The laws are named after Nelson Rockefeller, who was the state's governor at the time the laws were adopted. . But getting tough on Estevez thus far has cost New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of taxpayers $300,000.
It costs $32,000 a year to keep Estevez in jail along with the other 23,000 drug offenders now in New York prisons. For years Governor George Pataki George Elmer Pataki (born June 24, 1945) is an American politician who was the 57th Governor of New York serving from January 1995 until January 1, 2007. He is a member of the Republican Party and was seen as a possible 2000 and 2008 Presidential candidate. and legislators have talked about reform as the population of drug offenders in prison continues to rise, costing taxpayers nearly $590 million a year. The perception of being "soft on crime" has stalled many attempts to change the laws.
June 2003 marked the 30th anniversary of the drug laws, which were ostensibly os·ten·si·ble
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity. created to eradicate the sale of illicit narcotics and imprison im·pris·on
tr.v. im·pris·oned, im·pris·on·ing, im·pris·ons
To put in or as if in prison; confine.
[Middle English emprisonen, from Old French emprisoner : en- drug kingpins. What they did in the process was to take away judicial discretion.
"I don't think in all my years on the bench I ever saw a 'kingpin,'" said former State Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks, who now spends his time petitioning the governor for clemencies and fighting to repeal the state drug laws.
Studies produced by the Correction Association show that the majority of people who use drugs are white, yet African Americans and Latinos make up 95 percent of the drug offenders in state prison.
"The people most affected by these laws are at the lowest socioeconomic levels," said Eddie Ellis, president of Community Justice Center.
But many prosecutors, like former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Kevin Rooney Kevin Rooney born on May 4, 1956 in Catskill, NY and is a boxing trainer and former boxer. Amateur Boxing Career
Rooney won the 1975 147lb Sub-Novice New York Golden Gloves Championship. Rooney defeated Kevin Higgins of West Point in the finals. , argue that judges are not tough enough in sentencing, and that the drug laws themselves are not racist.
"I guarantee in places like Harlem people will say the laws have been effective," Rooney said. "And as far as the laws discriminating--that's just not true. We have a reactionary police force and they respond to the complaints of residents. It just so happens the demographics of those areas are populated by minorities and the poor."
Severe sentencing and removing judicial discretion doesn't sit well with Marks, the judge.
"The punishment just doesn't fit the crime," said Marks, who claims he was as tough as anyone when it came to sentencing violent crimes. "These laws have affected thousands of families and left many children without a parent."
The Hardest Part
A sixth grader of Dominican descent, Janizabeth is one of 80,000 children who have a parent in the New York state prison system. Most of these children experience greater levels of anxiety, depression, attention disorders, aggression, and poor performance in school, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a report by the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents.
The chances of children like Estevez ending up in prison have been estimated as between two and six times greater than that of their peers. A recent survey of children of offenders by the Corrections Association of New York found that 41 percent of teenagers had been suspended from school and 31 percent had run-ins with the police.
Janizabeth has visited her farther a dozen times in prison, which is more than three hours from the city. Because most prisons are built upstate, many families have difficulty, making the long trips.
"The hardest part is when I leave," said Janizabeth as her eyes filled with tears. "When I leave he starts crying, and I know that I have months to wait before I see him again."
Charles Harris is a freelance writer living in New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. . He is attending the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University with the intention of writing and producing documentaries.