Reform the Rockefeller Laws

by TChris

New York legislators are again considering reform of the state's draconian drug laws. One of the advocates for reform is Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who wants lawmakers to abolish mandatory state prison sentences for low-level dealers.

The proposed change might make little difference in Manhattan, where only 14 percent of defendants charged with B-level drug offenses in the past 20 months have received prison sentences. Most have been allowed to plea bargain for a package of jail time and treatment. Still, the proposed change would be a welcome measure in other parts of the state, where prosecutors may be more inclined to seek prison for minor drug dealers.

Other Morgenthau proposals are less sanguine, including his suggestion to replace indeterminate sentences with fixed sentences and his request for a "kingpin" statute that would make it "easier" to impose 25-to-life sentences on those identified by the DA's office as "leaders." On the whole, however, reform is desperately needed. Has the time finally come?

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