Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Help End Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in prison, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 13, 2009

NYCLU

12036314_400x400_frontIt’s Finally Happening

New York must reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws

The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973, mandate extremely harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of small amounts of drugs. Intended to target drug kingpins, most of the people incarcerated under these laws are convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses. Many of the thousands of New Yorkers in prison under these laws suffer from substance abuse problems; many others struggle with issues related to homelessness, mental illness or unemployment.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws create stark racial disparities in prison populations and exact an enormous financial toll on all of New York State.

After 36 years, the chance for true reform of these laws is greater this year than it ever has been.

On March 4, the New York State Assembly passed a strong reform bill, the first step on the road to a new direction for New York.

The same progressive bill has now been introduced in the New York State Senate where it faces a much tougher road to passage. Many senators have been intimidated by the scare tactics and misrepresentations of prosecutors who don’t want to give up their power over New Yorkers’ lives. And recent media reports suggest that Governor Paterson, who was once the strongest champion of Rockefeller reform, wants to cut a deal to put a band-aid on these fundamentally broken laws. What we need is real reform, not piecemeal fixes.

Send a free fax to your senators and to Governor Paterson urging them to put 36 years of failed Rockefeller Drug Laws behind us, once and for all. Tell the Senate to pass S.2855, and tell the Governor to sign it into law.

To find out more information about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, click here.

Tell me more

Talking Points

– For 36 years, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have done nothing to stop drug abuse or help people struggling to overcome addiction in New York. Public health experts agree there is a better way: treatment and rehabilitation.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have created unconscionable racial disparities. While 72 percent of New Yorkers who have used illegal drugs are white, more than 90 percent of people incarcerated for drug offenses in New York State are black or Latino.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have destroyed lives, families, neighborhoods and whole communities for decades. More than 25,000 children have been orphaned by our state’s drug laws. Sixty percent of people who have been incarcerated can’t find work a year after release.

– New York State could save $267 million annually by treating and rehabilitating those who need it. Our state can’t afford the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

– Judges must have the authority to do what they think is best in the interest of justice and public safety. Mandatory minimum sentences bust be eliminated and judges must have the option of sending people to drug treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison.

– New York State needs alternatives to incarceration programs in every county in the State. Experts agree: Some drug users need mental health services, treatment, education, and job-training programs instead of a jail cell.

SIGN THE LETTER HERE

VIDEO: NY Legislature to Vote on Overhauling Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in politics, prison, racism, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

Democracy Now

n52476290354_57251The New York State Assembly is set to vote Wednesday on legislation that would allow judges to send drug offenders to substance abuse treatment instead of prison. The legislation would also allow thousands of prisoners jailed for nonviolent drug offenses to have their sentences reduce or commuted. It’s the latest step in a long campaign to repeal the draconian Rockefeller laws. The laws impose lengthy minimum sentences on drug offenders, even those with no prior convictions. The laws have disproportionately targeted people of color, while giving prosecutors de facto control over how long convicts are jailed. [includes rush transcript]

Video Guests:

Kirk James, served nine years under the Rockefeller drug laws as a first-time offender. He’s now a social justice activist.

Caitlin Dunklee, coordinator of the Correctional Association’s Drop the Rock, a grassroots campaign to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, Representing New York’s 35th Assembly District in Queens, has led efforts in the New York state legislature to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Watch videos here

(more…)

Kennedy Is Said to Withdraw Senate Bid

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 21, 2009

New York Times

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn from consideration for the vacant Senate seat in New York, according to a person told of her decision.

On Wednesday she called the governor, David Paterson, who is making the selection of who should succeed Senator Hillary Clinton. Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s deteriorating health (he was hospitalized after a seizure during the inaugural lunch on Tuesday ) prompted her decision to withdraw, this person said. Coping with the health issues of her uncle, with whom she enjoys an extraordinarily close bond, was her most important priority; a situation not conducive to starting a high profile public job.

She was planning to issue a statement on Wednesday evening.

Ms. Kennedy’s decision comes nearly two months after she, along with several members of Congress and leading political officials, began auditioning to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the coveted position.

The decision is certain to startle the political world.Ms. Kennedy had gained the support of some powerful backers in the state, including several labor officials and a top aide to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Kevin Sheekey.

But her pursuit of the seat also set off resistance, with some local Democratic officials suggesting it smacked of entitlement, and polls showing voters preferring Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for the position. Ms. Kennedy, 51, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and a resident of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has never served in public office.

Gov. David A. Paterson plans to announce on Saturday whom he has selected. The governor has been coy about his decision, and while he has praised Ms. Kennedy, he has also spoken approvingly of other candidates, including Mr. Cuomo and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is beginning her second term as a congresswoman from the Albany area.

Mrs. Clinton resigned from the Senate late Wednesday, immediately after being sworn in as secretary of state.

It’s Down to One Week

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on October 28, 2008
Courts are packed with cases of people whose voter registrations aren’t on file for some reason.
By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau
A dramatic presidential race has prompted voter registration drives nationwide, and New York is no exception. Everyone expects long lines at the voting booth on Nov. 4

But first comes a different kind of crunch: Local courts already are seeing an influx of people who, for whatever reason, are not listed as registered voters and are petitioning a judge to be enrolled.

While county boards of election typically have judges available on Election Day to rule on such cases, voters this year are heading to court days or even weeks ahead of time.

In Saratoga County, they’ve even set aside mornings to settle registration disputes.

“We’re letting them come in from 8:30 a.m. to noon,” said Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano. “We think election day is going to be very busy.”

“They’re being swamped,” agreed Michael Guiry, a retiree who this year moved back to Edinburgh, in Saratoga County, from Florida to be near his family.

Guiry and his wife registered to vote when they got their New York driver’s licenses, but when Guiry applied for a hunting license a few weeks ago and double-checked his voter status, he wasn’t listed. So he drove to Saratoga for a hearing before Scarano, who put him on the voter rolls.

“We have to go after school,” said Jean Harsen of Kinderhook, who plans to take her 18-year-old son, Johnathan, to Columbia County Court this week.

Harsen said Johnathan registered at a booth set up by Barack Obama supporters at the Columbia County Fair, but the county Board of Elections never got his registration.

There are lots of reasons why registrations don’t show up: Sometimes they’re simply lost, or the people running the voting drives forget to turn them in.

“It’s incumbent upon the people who are doing these drives to bring these forms in,” said Geeta Cheddie, acting election commissioner in Columbia County.

She recounted several stories in which people claimed they had sent in registration cards, but after double-checking realized they hadn’t – or had misplaced the cards altogether.

Geddie said she wasn’t sure what happened with Harsen’s registration.

“The courts are always a recourse,” she said, adding that she’s already referred a few unregistered people to the courthouse in Hudson.

Nor is it the presidential race alone that’s sparking the increase in court visits.

The state Board of Elections last year put registration lists online so that voters can check their status. But even that good work has been complicated by the fact that the state board in Albany was swamped last month with thousands of mail-in registration cards that people printed out from the Web site of Rock the Vote, a nationwide campaign to boost voting by young people.

Normally, individuals register at their local county board of elections, since those are the official repositories for voter rolls. But Rock the Vote had people send registrations to the state, which is required to accept all received before the Oct. 15 deadline. The state office was then obliged to sort and send the cards to the individual counties.

“Every day we would send out a shipment to each county,” said state Board of Elections spokesman Bob Brehm.

The upshot was that registrations may have been in the mail, but they weren’t yet listed on the Web site – creating another reason for nervous voters to head for the courts.

Election lawyer Henry Berger said many voters are figuring they can avoid Election Day hassles by going to court in advance if they have doubts about their registration status.

“Some people are getting more sophisticated about this. They are going in early,” he said.

Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or rkarlin@timesunion.com

To check your voter registration status, visit the state Board of Elections Web site at http://www.elections.state.ny.us

Update: NY Voters Being Reported As “Inactive”

Posted in civil rights, voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on October 22, 2008

 

From MCM
Dear Mark and Bo,

I am an NYU graduate, a magazine reporter and someone who just found out last week I was “Inactive.”

I’ve been reading your work, Mark, and also that of Naomi Wolf, who speaks very highly of you in her latest book Give Me Liberty.

I just wanted to thank you both for sending this email out to people. Unfortunately, it is too late to change your status UNLESS you can get someone at your borough’s board of elections to send you a new “confirmation notice” in the mail – this confirmation notice, once sent out, automatically moves one from the “inactive” to the “active” status.

I know because I got someone to do it for me last week. I had contacted the ACLU’s voting rights project (Neil Bradley, who I’ve cc’d on this email) and also Election Protection dot org, in DC, and had a list of the laws ready to read to whomever at the voting office was unlucky enough to answer my phone call. Basically I badgered them for two days until they moved my name.

I URGE everyone who finds out they are “inactive” to call, call, call their borough’s board of elections, where they were last registered, and beg them to do whatever they can.

I can provide more information on the specific laws I cited when I talked to them, if you’re interested.

Regards,


Melody S. Wells
PEOPLE Magazine
Reporter-Researcher

NYC: Over 1.5 Million Voters Purged.

Posted in voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on October 21, 2008

From Stephanie Low:

Over 1.5 million NYS voters have been purged and won’t know it till they get to their polling place.

They’ll be able to vote only by provisional ballot.

In NYC, the number to call is 866 868 3692 to find out if you’re still “Active” and have not been “flagged.”
To do your civic duty, get this message out however you can–email, print and post it.

NY Voter Update: NY Will Use Electronic Voting Machines

Posted in voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on October 20, 2008

I just received this e-mail from the NYS Board of Elections

Thank you for your e-mail about maintaining lever voting machines in New York State, which is duly noted. Please be aware, however,  that in replacing the lever machines and instituting electronic ballot marking devices, the state is following, as required, the mandate of the Help America Vote Act. We appreciate your interest in safeguarding the integrity of the voting process.

New York State Board of Elections
40 Steuben Street
Albany, NY  12207-2108

http://www.elections.state.ny.us

###

To clarify: the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was signed into law by President Bush in 2002.

HAVA did three things: replaced punch card voting systems, created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and established minimum election administration standards. 

HAVA was supposed to strengthen the electoral process, but all it did was making voting more difficult for certain people (namely the elderly and minorities.) HAVA beefed up ID requirements. People who don’t have driver licenses (again, the elderly and minorities,) sometimes face intimidation and discrimination when they go to vote, and they do not have government issued IDs. 

HAVA also replaced traditional voting booths with electronic machines, which have no paper trails, and famously delete, and sometimes switch, votes. 

In short: just like the ironically named Patriot Act, the Help America Vote Act actually performs the opposite task it name implies, and PREVENTS America from voting.