Rockefeller Drug Laws: Big Changes Ahead

In the good news department, New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws are expected to take a big blow this week as the legislature is poised to pass new laws granting judges more discretion in sentencing.

The Assembly is expected to pass legislation on Tuesday that would once again give judges the discretion to send those found guilty of having smaller amounts of illegal drugs to substance-abuse treatment instead of prison and allow thousands of inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses to apply to have their sentences reduced or commuted.

Meanwhile, the governor’s office is preparing legislation that it plans to present to Senate leaders on Monday that would also give judges discretion in sentencing, according to a senior administration official involved in drafting the bills. But for now, the governor is not taking a position on whether sentences should be reduced for some prisoners.

Mandatory minimums were a terrible and unjust solution to the problems that plagued New York in the '70's. I hope the legislators hold firm and make relief retroactive to those already serving these awful sentences. [More...]

Some prosecutors are opposed:

“The district attorney’s input would be taken out of the equation,” said Bridget G. Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor for New York City. “When I look at cases, I want to have the discretion as gatekeeper, to make sure that somebody I put back out in the community is not going to pose a public safety threat. A district attorney has a much clearer picture of a community’s concerns.”

Baloney. She doesn't want to be a gatekeeper, she wants to be the judge, and it's not her job.

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  • Display: Sort:
    good for the goose and gander (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 07:13:45 PM EST
    Does that mean that people who got too SHORT sentences can also have their sentences extended by legislative fiat?

    Why's That (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 07:20:58 PM EST
    Afraid that this measure is going to cut into your prison psych income?

    Pointless snark (none / 0) (#16)
    by diogenes on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 12:39:27 PM EST
    Sorry, prison psychiatrists are paid by SALARY, there is a shortage of them, and precious few Rockefeller drug law inmates have serious and persistant mental illnesses.
    On the other hand, legally allowing the extension of sentences for certain high-risk sex offenders would allow us to stop the fiction of confining them to psychiatric hospitals by mandatory civil commitment upon release after too-short prison terms.

    Trolling? (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 01:06:21 PM EST
    The topic is Rockefeller drug laws not sex offenders. And now it is clear that your comment is even more self serving than I had originally imagined.

    Mandatory minimums were a terrible and unjust solution to the problems that plagued New York in the '70's.

    Lobbying for more of those is absurd.


    A sensible cost-saving measure. (none / 0) (#3)
    by oldpro on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 07:26:20 PM EST
    For a state, Corrections is one of the few discretionary areas of a budget, so in hard times, it's one place to look for savings...

    Wouldn't it be nice.... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 11:29:47 AM EST
    if it weren't about the money, and only about doing what is right?

    It is what it is. The cost (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by oldpro on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 12:00:34 PM EST
    tends to focus the mind of legislators during deficit budget years...it's an opportunity to do the right thing (even if you think it's for the wrong reason!)  In politics and governing, results are what matters...the end may very well justify the means.

    I hear that.... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 12:14:44 PM EST
    whatever opens the cages is fine by me.

    Yup. Works for me. (none / 0) (#14)
    by oldpro on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 12:20:53 PM EST
    About Time (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 07:46:10 PM EST
    And if the concern is about violence, as the prosecutor glibly stated, then we should let all non violent drug convicts out now.

    nonviolent (none / 0) (#17)
    by diogenes on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 12:42:30 PM EST
    Lots of violent drug convicts agree to plea bargain to possession(easy to prove-police find the drugs on the person), which makes trials easier and protects their victims from threats of reprisals if they testify because of the "no snitch" culture we live in.  

    Good news (none / 0) (#5)
    by Steve M on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 08:59:53 PM EST
    Long time coming.  Wonder if this will help resolve the budget crisis...

    Secondary reason for it (none / 0) (#6)
    by andgarden on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 09:25:14 PM EST
    One of the ways that the Republicans have been able to continue to control the State Senate until recently is by building a bunch of prisons upstate to pad the census numbers. The city is effectively cheated out of at least one district.

    Heh (none / 0) (#7)
    by Steve M on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 09:47:15 PM EST
    The new three-fifths rule, I see.

    Worse (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 09:50:52 PM EST
    Prisoners are counted as a whole person.

    mandatory minimums were pushed (none / 0) (#9)
    by dualdiagnosis on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 01:21:28 AM EST
    as a way to take away unfairness in sentencing.

    she shouldn't worry her (none / 0) (#10)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 03:37:17 AM EST
    pretty little head about it,

    Baloney. She doesn't want to be a gatekeeper, she wants to be the judge, and it's not her job.

    this legislation hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of passage. no politician (especially democrats) wants to be accused of being "soft" on crime. that's why it's always easier for them to vote for increased prison terms, harsher accomodations, "three strikes" provisions, and expanding the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

    they would rather the entire state go up in economic flames, eliminate education entirely, substantially reduce or eliminate altogether public health programs, rather than run the risk of an election opponent beat them over the head with the charge that they allowed viscious criminals back into society.

    i'm not suggesting it's rational (rare is the politician who thinks rationally), clearly it isn't, it's just how they think. in their defense, they merely reflect their constituents' paranoia; there's a drug crazed, homocidal maniac hiding behind every tree and bush, waiting to pounce on THEM!

    also, they don't want upset all those entities making huge wads of cash under the current laws. they aren't going to give that up without a fight.

    Doin' good by keeping prisons full (none / 0) (#15)
    by Yes2Truth on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:36:57 PM EST
    Wouldn't it be better to pardon everyone who has been convicted (pleaded guilty) of a victimless crime and stop arresting people for same?

    Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the legal/prison industrial complex economy running by investigating, arresting, and prosecuting more of the fine folks in our society who actually cause harm to others thru fraud and other white-collar crimes?