Deal Reached to End Rockefeller Drug Laws

New York Governor David Paterson announced Thursday a deal has been reached with state legislators to repeal and revise much of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The deal would repeal many of the mandatory minimum prison sentences now in place for lower-level drug felons, giving judges the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of prison.

The plan would also expand drug treatment programs and widen the reach of drug courts at a cost of at least $50 million.

It's not clear how many of those currently serving sentences will be able to apply for relief. Apparently, the legislators are willing to be more expansive in this regard than is Paterson. [More...]

The agreement, which requires approval in the Assembly and the Senate, would allow some drug offenders who are currently in prison to apply to have their sentences commuted. It was not clear on Wednesday how many current prisoners would be eligible to apply. Mr. Paterson has pushed to have fewer prisoners than legislative leaders would prefer.

How it will work:

Under the plan, judges would have the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders in all but the most serious drug offenses — known as A-level drug felonies — to treatment. As a condition of being sent to treatment, offenders would have to plead guilty. If they did not successfully complete treatment, their case would go back before a judge, who would again have the option of imposing a prison sentence.


Currently, judges are bound by a sentencing structure that requires minimum sentences of one year for possessing small amounts of cocaine or heroin, for example. Under the agreement reached by the governor and lawmakers, a judge could order treatment for those offenders.

Judges would also have the option of sending some repeat drug offenders to treatment. Repeat offenders accused of more serious drug crimes, however, could only go to treatment if they were found to be drug-dependent in an evaluation.

Repeat offenders need treatment, not jail. I've used a drug counselor as an expert witness/drug treatment counselor in a case where my female client was looking at prison for having small remnants of a drug in her purse. The counselor came to the hearing at a tiny courthouse in Southern Coloraodo. I put the expert/conselor on the stand and asked her how may clients she has. Her answer: 5oo. I asked her how many of those 500 patients had relapsed during treatment, Here answer was 500--and she then explained to the Judge that this is normal. Everbody trips up the first few weeks until the program clicks in, My client made it through despite her less than perfect pee scores. Cannibis stays in your system up to 28 days. If your THC level goes down the first two months, they assume you havne't smoked since you began the program.

This is a great step in the right direction of ending mandatory incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

Right now it's the prosecutors charging these mandatory minimum sentences which leaves the judges with no discretion.

We must give sentencing judges the authority they always had, up until 1987 in the federal system to refuse to imopse these sentences if they find good grounds.

America has to learn that it cannot jail itself out of the country's drug problems. The kids and other offenders going in to prison are exposed to a parade of horrors that will stick with them for years, if not forever. After a certain number of years, they become institutionalized. You can tell it when you see them: their eyes are blanker, they walk with their eyes looking down so as not to catch the eye of other inmates that might lead to a fight, etc. etc.

Drug addiction is a disease. Many of these addicts sold drugs to their friends to feed their own habit. They don't show up on elementary school steps hawking drugs to school kids.

The Albany Times says "Just Say Yes" to drug law reform.

A few weeks ago the New York State Assembly voted to repeal large segments of the law. More on the legislative issues and action this year are here.

We've been waiting for legislatures to reverse course on this "one size fits all" drug policy for years. I'm not expecting it to be a cure-all, but a solid beginning. Let's just get our foot in the door, finally, and then plan to take on the rest.

< Thursday Morning Weather Thread | Hillary Clinton, the Drug War and Drug Treatment >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    First of all the profit motive has (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by SOS on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:24:37 AM EST
    to be removed from the Prison Structure.

    A good start would be not allowing Prison enterprises to be traded on Wall Street.

    Shareholders tend to get impatient if business isn't doing well.

    I just recently learned of this (none / 0) (#15)
    by 1040su on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 05:02:16 PM EST
    I can't believe someone hasn't done a expose on this!  60 minutes, Dateline, anybody!  I googled but found just a few articles - nothing in depth.  I know Reagan started it.

    I Agree (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by WillieB on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:40:40 AM EST
    A good start would be not allowing Prison enterprises to be traded on Wall Street.

    Shareholders tend to get impatient if business isn't doing well.


    Whatever happened to that Rockefeller? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 08:06:17 AM EST
    He died stoned on a multi-drug cocktail at age 70, while engaging in "a*d*u*l*t activities" with his 25-year-old girlfriend Megan Marshack in her apartment on West 54th Street, but wife "Happy" Murphy and the billionaire brothers had the corpse hauled away to Rockefeller Center, where dear old Nelson was later "discovered" by a security guard, slumped over his desk, with his pants on.

    I just mention this ancient scandal to remind "law and order" types that all the drug laws currently on the books were written by hypocrites and endorsed and voted into law by hypocrites and sold to credulous rubes in the boonies by hypocrites, over and over and over.

    I did not know that... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 09:07:05 AM EST
    Thanks Jacob...and you're right, hypocrites all.

    Almost everybody is on something.


    I had a nice lunch (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 09:53:39 AM EST
    at this new little coffee shop here yesterday.  In one of the mags laying about I discovered that coffee is a commodity second only to oil.  Never suspected that, my doctor tells me I abuse coffee :)

    As do I... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:19:00 AM EST
    it is fuel, so to speak...I'd stall without it.

    About Time (none / 0) (#5)
    by MO Blue on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 09:36:44 AM EST
    Treatment not incarceration is what is needed for first time offenders.

    Current laws are just plain stupid.

    I read a thing where a drug dealer (none / 0) (#7)
    by SOS on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:16:27 AM EST
    was explaining to parents why their kids end up using drugs.

    "Where are you parents when your kids need you?

    We're here your not"

    I thought the ONDCP said.... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:23:04 AM EST
    drug dealers were almost out of business because all the kids get high off their parents prescription meds these days...at least that's what one of their propaganda adverts say.

    Radio news on the way to work this morning (none / 0) (#12)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 10:45:08 AM EST
    said WA state had an increase in members of the Mexican drug cartel over the past few months. The state said the increase was because of a huge reduction in federal dollars coming in to fight it.

    Would the Mexican drug problem go away if Americans were allowed to grow the drugs here at home? :)


    There would still be a Mexican... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 12:10:12 PM EST
    gangster problem to some degree, though the gangsters will be a helluva lot lighter in the pocketbook, and not so well-armed.

    I found the reduction in federal dollars (none / 0) (#14)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 03:31:32 PM EST
    to fight the "war on drugs" to be pretty interesting.

    repeal? (none / 0) (#16)
    by diogenes on Thu Mar 26, 2009 at 09:35:51 PM EST
    1.  Now the only way to imprison a violent drug offender is for someone to be willing to "snitch" in a trial for violence, as opposed to a slam-dunk possession conviction.
    2.  I see a fair number of Drug Court "treatment" candidates" who have no substance abuse diagnosis at all but simply use "treatment" as a way to avoid consequences for their drug dealing.  Maybe that won't matter if drug dealing is legalized.
    3.  Paterson doesn't want to release too many people because the first prisoner released early who commits a murder will be the next Willie Horton.  It's a lot harder to track crimes committed by hypothetical future people who avoided prison because of this repeal.