russell-simmons11Russell 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.

You can read the full letter from Russell Simmons to President Obama on Global Grind.

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  • AnnT

    Did Russell Simmons solicit the his state legislative, executive, and judicial branch first?
    I get what he’s trying to accomplish (side-eye to Lil Wayne’s signature) but starting from the bottom up is more effective.

    • Rue

      What you said. But good on him for taking a stand. it’s a lot more than most will do.

  • Ok, I agree with much of that reform. But will Russell also rally his musical celebrity friends to combat the music industry that encourages drug use and selling? To encourage young black kids to find other things to sell for a profit before they get caught up? He has the platform and influence to effectively fight a lot of the issues in the black community.

  • leelah

    for some reason I have a problem with celebrities rallying around an issue like this. All the people listed have enough money to move themselves, and their whole entire extended family away from neighborhoods plagued by drugs and gangs. Its not an issue that directly affects Russell Simmons, except for some retired rapper he knows getting sent away for trying to be scarface.–After growing up in the hood and being touched by gang violence, I feel that some bad apples need to be just thrown away so some of us can have a chance at a decent life. In my neighborhood we couldn’t wear blue, red, or green. And the parks were completely over run by gangsters who every now and then started shooting in the middle of the day. Boys started joining gangs in 6th grade so I don’t think letting drug dealers out of prison is going to make anything better.–I’m not supporting his efforts until he comes out loud and strong with some solutions. Or until he at least goes on the record against all the violence and drug selling in hip hop, instead of that same tired line about street poets. He needs to at least show the people who actually live in these neighborhoods some respect and have a public discussion with the community activists who think that this is a bad idea.–Russell Simmons needs to stop trying to be the new leader of the blacks and teach some kids yoga or something more suited to his skills.

    • This is so true. I watched these drug dealing thugs turn my nice, quiet working class neighborhood into a veritable hellhole in less than ten years. These people don’t just deal drugs, which is bad enough, they firebomb houses, including the houses of innocent babies. Sorry, Russell, unless you’re prepared to let these lowlifes come live in your pristine, gated community where they rape and plunder YOUR daughters, you need to have several seats. This so-called drug reform is nothing more than another opportunity for black women and children to be brutalized.

  • The Other Jess

    I truly HATE Mr. Turtle – I mean Russel Simmons – and place a lot of the problems with violent drug offenders in Black neighborhoods on his shoulders. It was his influence in the Gangsta rap and “Horror-core” rap scene that led to many young men seeing drugs and violence as cool and the thing to do. Now , after they have plundered and pillaged communities, Simmons wants them to be coddled??? Hecks NO!

  • Cocochanel31

    Why don’t we teach people to stop USING AND SELLING ILLEGAL DRUGS!
    And forced rehab is a joke. Everyone knows addicts don’t change until they WANT TO CHANGE not due to some court order to go see a therapist.

    While I agree that petty drug offenders should not get the same sentencing as rapists and murderers – let’s all Thank Bill Clinton who everyone loves so much who sent more young black men to jail under these drugs laws than any other President.