In 1973, two years after President Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” New York Governor Rockefeller passed the toughest drug laws in the nation. The notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws demanded mandatory sentences for people convicted of drug law violations, while removing the Judge’s power to consider each case individually. They also turned New York’s prisons into merciless machines, destroying families and lives, and locking up tens of thousands of first-time offenders, many addicted to drugs. Eventually these laws became the template for the federal government’s draconian sentencing laws passed in the 1980s that imprisoned millions of Americans with mandatory minimum sentences.
In 1985, I made the biggest mistake in my life – and it cost me my freedom, my soul, and my humanity. Because I was desperate for cash I was convinced by a bowling teammate to get involved with a drug deal. In exchange for $500, I transported an envelope containing 4 ounces of cocaine from the Bronx to Mt. Vernon, NY. To my surprise I walked into a police sting operation where 20 undercover cops were waiting for me. I did everything wrong and was convicted and sentenced to 15 years-to-life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I served 12 years in a maximum security prison until I was granted executive clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1997.
Upon my release, I struggled with my newfound freedom and realized that the freedom I fought so long and hard to win was not what I imagined it would be. The way of life I once knew was gone, along with my friends and support base. I discovered I was quite alone in a new world that had drastically changed. But I could not forget those I left in prison and decided to go on a rescue mission to save them and change the laws that had imprisoned me.
– Read the entire article at AlterNet.