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October 2003
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Jerome Marks – a Justice for Justice

This week’s Drug War Chronicle from DRCNet has an interview with retired New York Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks, who has spent most of his time since retirement fighting against the war on drugs, and helping the victims of the war.
First, this from New York Newsday earlier this week:

In his 22 years on the bench, State Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks put plenty of men and women behind bars. “Now,” he said, “I’m trying to get some of them out.”
It isn’t that Marks, 88 and now retired, is soft on crime. It’s just that he regards the Rockefeller drug laws enacted in September 1973, as the “most unjust enacted in my time.” Marks says the draconian drug laws have snared the weak and the poor in its net, but few drug lords – who can afford expensive lawyers to keep them out of jail.

And more from the DRCNet interview:

I was doing civil court, but when I transferred over to the Supreme Court I started getting these drug cases. I would have these cases in front of me where if people had sold over two ounces of drugs or possessed over four ounces, they were looking at 15-25 years-to-life. That’s the same sentence as murder, and it’s the only nonviolent crime with that type of sentence…. I have never seen a law as bad as this. The punishment just doesn’t fit the crime. And it doesn’t make sense… I was a great admirer of our criminal justice system as a young man, and I still am, but not as much. Back then we were concerned with rehabilitating people, but now we are more concerned with incarcerating them. We need more programs to help people…. We’ve been going in the wrong direction, and I just hope it changes.

On Monday, Marks will be honored by Mothers of the Disappeared whose members have seen their children locked up under the Rockefeller laws.

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