Thursday, March 05, 2009


In an amazing display of trust, the New York State Assembly today passed a bill that would bring back sentencing discretion to judges. How would they do this? By finally stripping the Rockefeller-era drug laws from the books.

Its been 35 years since the Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted, the rigidity of the laws left no room for judges across the state to dictate offence appropriate sentences that fell below the minimum options. Many people who handled small amounts of pot, were placed in the same conditions as hardened criminals.

It is also quite obvious to everyone that mandating imprisonment for even lower level offenders like potheads, hasn't diminished the rampant incidences of violent crime in New York. It's just cost taxpayers alot of money.

Assemblyman David Townsend of Oneida County, told the Poughkeepsie Journal; “This legislation is letting them off the hook!” He went on to say measure would allow drug dealers to escape serious punishment.

Nonsense. Nowhere in the new legislation does it let dealers pedal their goods with impunity. Most of the Bill continues to mandate prison time for those who sell drugs while having a loaded gun, adults who sell to children and “kingpins” involved in numerous or large-scale transactions.

What's different about this years proposal? The leadership of the State Senate. The Assembly passed this Bill with the usual 96 to 46. The Senate would always let it die in committee before having to deal with this hot potato.

Many people who were merely addicted to illegal substances were sentenced to severe punishments at the Felony level, when most could have been issues a misdemeanor and shuffled through recovery programs, usually at 1/3 the cost to taxpayers.

According to the article: About 13,400 of the roughly 62,599 state-prison inmates are serving time for drug offences, 80 percent of whom have never been convicted of a violent crime. About 2,000 of them could get their sentences reduced if the bill becomes law.

If I recall correctly, this was a front page discussion during the DA race of 2007 and repealing the ROC Laws the central component. Giving judges the discretion over whether a drug offender should serve time in prison or get treatment still seems rational.

It would be foolish to avoid the other element of this issue...the cost of incarceration. This state has been saddled with this expense for too long. We must find an alternative to the costly housing and healthcare we provide for inmates in the system. Hell, it's better than what we offer the regular taxpayer. Where's the logic in that?

I'm hoping Malcolm Smith and Company get their act together and pass this bill so that the rest of us can get back to paying our own bills, not theirs.


Anonymous said...

Pulling half of the jailing expense out of the NYS budget certainly would free up alot of money. Who knows, maybe we could see less of an increase in taxes next year.

C'mon Senate!

Anonymous said...


bob marley

Pot doesn't hurt anyone, it is medicinally helpful, in many different types of illnesses.

Get Hip to this new kind of trip,,

It could balance the budget, eliminate the deficit & make people mellow & happy.

It is a Win-Win situation.

The mental midgets in power are to scared to be pro-active.

It doesnt lead to heroin or hard drug use. ANy idiot knows this.

Anonymous said...

The Rockefeller drug laws certainly need to be adjusted. Some of the penalties are out of proportion with the offense.

There will be consequences to this, good and bad.

Anonymous said...

If the hypocrisy in enforcement wasnt so obvious that everyone knows at least one member of law enforcement that samples some of the goods, then there would be less of a fuss. But that's exactly the point. Many of these drugs that are sooo dangerous are prevalent in the elitist circles, leaving just those in lower economic status to bear the brunt of the drug sweeps.
Eliminating the "one penalty fits all" element of law enforcement and giving judges the room to work they've asked for, is just the first step. Bravo Assembly!

Anonymous said...

What? Intelligence at work in politics? What's this state coming too? On Rush's behalf I have to object to this liberalism on the grounds that such intolerable behavior could marginalize my base even further!

Anonymous said...

You know what would be humorous? If judges went harsher on drug offenders. You'd be calling for reinstating the rockefeller laws.

Anonymous said...

If there are less criminals, and less people in prison, that will mean fewer jobs for prison guards.

That could mean layoffs for the corrections union.

Also possible closure of correctional facilities. That could devastate communities that rely on prisons for employment.

There are always unintended consequences to every action.

Anonymous said...

It would be a shame if the State Senate was short one vote. Since no-one lifted a finger to help the Democrat in last years 39th SD race.
Cross your fingers this passes without needing Larkin or there will be some disgusted progressives.