“Today is a historic day for New York, the day that the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms kicked in, setting in motion the release of 1,500 low-level nonviolent drug offenders. The new law also gives judicial discretion back to judges, who can now determine whether someone should get treatment for their addiction instead of a jail cell.”
Tony Papa in the Huffington Post, 10/7/09

Tony Papa has been a first rate reformer and became a fine painter, too, while in prison, who has exhibited at the Whitney. He was the victim of a police sting delivering a package of drugs for $500 while under financial pressure — his only offense. He is delighted to see rehab rather than years in prison at last becoming a possibility for non-violent drug offenders. If one checks such things, one discovers that ordinarily only people living in a few poor communities are drug arrests — targeting is biased (five poor minority areas in NYC) while prosperous people living outside these ghettos are rarely arrested, let alone imprisoned. This website shows Tony, some of his pictures, his high moment with Patterson’s decision to end the Rockefeller oppressive drug laws, and contact information:

http://www.15yearstolife.com/

The larger problem, however, is that these same low income/high unemployment ghettos produce all sorts of criminals who are not rescued by Tony’s efforts. What we are not doing is creating viable lives for people who have been trapped by poverty and discrimination — more than half our several millions now in prison and many millions more with criminal records blocking employment who are likely to commit more crimes to survive. Our nearly 10% national unemployment situation spells large problems ahead. Tony was an honest guy with money problems who let temptation lead him into a police trap which cost him 12 years of his life and us far more in prison expenses than would have a government job which pays back in services and taxes.

What we desperately need now is another WPA (Works Project Administration) job program such as that instituted by Roosevelt during the last great economic crash — as well as a fair distribution of our nation’s wealth and tax burdens. A CEO may pay less in taxes under our present system than his secretary. We cannot repeat often enough that 1% of our population has a total income than more than all 95% of the rest of us!

Tony has hit one serious problem. Who will cope with the really big ones of tax reform, medical profit-making reform (our doctors on average earn twice or more as much as European ones and our drug companies are our highest profit-making enterprise). Our corporations (or foreign buyers of same) are moving our jobs overseas (a family member checking a bank matter today found that the guy in India whom he had reached at City Bank and he had trouble understanding each other). China is borrowing from us — and producing more and more of our stuff with underpaid workers. Our unions are able to enroll fewer and fewer of our workers because companies are blocking unionization — so have less influence with many legislators than the corporations who fund such pols.

And so it goes in America (I am tempted to spell it Amerika).

What do you think?

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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