The Rockefeller Drug Laws

2314 Words 9 Pages
Nelson Rockefeller
To understand the Rockefeller Drug Laws one must first understand the person who was the fighting force behind the law’s implementation. Nelson Rockefeller was the 49th Governor of New York spanning from 1959 to 1973. His political backing was Republican yet was notorious for his liberal ideals. In 1962 New York bought into the Metcalf-Volker Law that offered voluntary and court-ordered rehabilitation to deal with the drug issue as opposed to jail time. Soon after came the Narcotic Addiction and Control Commission (NACC) of 1967, which was a costly program “aimed at helping addicts get clean” (Gray, 2009). These programs were ultimately labeled failures by the man who had initially backed them, Nelson Rockefeller. In an article
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The key take-away of the laws was the requirement that drug offenders were punished with at least minimum imprisonment for all levels of offenses and a maximum of life in prison. “The Rockefeller Drug Laws *559 divided New York State Class A felony charges into three categories. Classes A-II and A-III were created to focus solely on drug crimes.”(Nakdai, 2001, p.558-559). Those charged even with the lower Class C, D, or E felonies were mandated to receive prison time. The length of prison time varied depending on the weight and type of drug for the felony charge. With mandatory imprisonment for all drug charges, judges had no discretion to recommend probation or …show more content…
Oddly enough, it was not the big time drug distributors, but those with no prior convictions. Much like Elaine Bartlett, many of those receiving the harsh end of the Rockefeller Drug Laws were first time offenders. This leads to one of the largest criticisms of the laws; the punishment does not fit the crime. These one-time convicts were merely pawns in the larger game of the drug trade. The large-scale drug pushers merely adapted to the heightened penalties and police enforcement. “Dealers relied increasingly on minors, who were not sentenced as harshly as adults, as drug runners. Without much interruption, users continued to buy and sell drugs to maintain their habit.”(Kohler-Hausmann, 2010, p.69). This left those who were uninformed and impoverished at risk. With regards to Elaine Bartlett her situation is not uncommon with to Rockefeller Drug Law convictions. Many women have been taken advantage of as a result of these laws. According to Nakdai (2001) ”Seventy percent of women sent to prison for drug crimes are compelled to become involved in drug smuggling by their boyfriends or spouses who use force to ensure that the women assist them”(p.568). In Elaine’s case it was an informant who asked her to make the run. In cases such as hers, women fall prey to outside influence in most times to protect their male counterparts or their own physical well-being. When charged under the Rockefeller Drug Laws the courts were unable to

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