The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration: The Rockefeller Drug Laws as a Case Study

David Weiman, Columbia University
Christopher C. Weiss, Columbia University

Recent research on the rise of the current incarceration regime in the United States has examined the effects of political realignments and changes in sentencing policies. In this analysis, we extend this research by examining the differential impact of what we label “higher order” policies, such as the creation of sentencing laws, with the implementation of such policies at the grass roots level. Using the implementation of New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws as a case study, we examine how the development and implementation of these laws contributed to a rise in the incarcerated population. Our preliminary analysis indicates that while the passage of the Rockefeller Laws was a necessary condition for a rise in the incarcerated population, it was not sufficient. Moreover, our preliminary analysis also shows evidence of the importance of predicate or second felony offender laws on the growth of the prison population.

  See paper

Presented in Session 109: The Demography of Crime and Punishment