P. Diddy calls for leniency in drug sentencing. He and other hip-hoppers lobby to give judges more discretion in sentencing drug offenders

By Gary Susman
Updated May 30, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sean ”P. Diddy” Combs joined forces with other hip-hoppers and celebrities on Thursday to call for reform of New York’s Rockefeller drug sentencing laws, Newsday reports. The mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, enacted under Governor Nelson Rockefeller 30 years ago, have been criticized as unduly harsh and unfair, even by current Governor George Pataki, and have filled New York prisons with non-violent offenders sentenced to lengthy terms for selling or possessing minute quantities of illegal drugs.

”If you’re not affected by this law you can’t really even fathom the amount of damage this is doing to somebody’s family — somebody’s mother, somebody’s father, somebody’s child,” Combs said at a rally in Manhattan, where he joined hip-hop mogul/activist Russell Simmons, his brother Joseph ”Run” Simmons of Run-DMC, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Rev. Al Sharpton, and other stars and politicians. ”Lives are changed by this law, that if it’s not happening to you or to one of your family members you may not really feel the effect of it,” Combs said.

Under the Rockefeller laws, even first-time offenders can face 15 years to life in prison if convicted of selling as little as 2 ounces, or possessing as little as 4 ounces, of a controlled substance. ”95 percent of the people incarcerated are black and brown, which points to the worst case of racial profiling that we’ve ever seen,” Russell Simmons said. A spokesperson for Gov. Pataki told Newsday that the governor is committed to reforming the laws but has been stymied by the legislature.