Russell Simmons is utilizing his hip-hop mogul influence to foster drug-law reform. He presented a letter to President Obama with more than 100 signatures – including Lil Wayne’s, Will Smith’s, Jennifer Hudson’s and other entertainers – requesting a probe into detrimental drug laws.
Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records in 1984, praised Obama for his previous efforts, but requests more from the commander-in-chief. He and his high-powered buddies want drug incarceration to be replaced with interventions and rehabilitations for non-violent offenders; the commission of a panel to specifically address clemency requests; and a federal measure that would offer judges the right to waive mandatory minimum sentences.
Drug offenders encompass nearly half of the federal prison population, which is the result of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted in 1973 in response to the explosive emergence of crack-cocaine. New York legislators designed harsh laws to curb drug usage, but the decree only increased the prison population by mandating minimum sentences for the possession or sale of small amounts of drugs. Similar laws were enacted across the United States, including the three-strikes mandate.
Mass-incarceration ensued with many people serving lengthy sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenses. More than 11,000 people were incarcerated for drug offenses as of 2002. More than 50 percent of that population is parents.
The New York Civil Liberties Union found that “New York’s mandatory minimum drug-sentencing scheme has failed to improve public safety or deter drug use.”
The Rockefeller Drug Laws are a penal failure.
“They tear apart families, waste tax dollars and create shocking racial disparities,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “Justice and common sense require comprehensive reform.”
Russell Simmons hopes his efforts to highlight the impact of drug laws will encourage President Obama to propose comprehensive reform measures.
“It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” Simmons told the Associated Press.