Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Amazing that it took as long as it did. The changes made to the drug laws in New York State went into effect Wednesday. Placing discretion back in it's rightful place. With the judges.

Having the ability to place non-violent drug offenders into treatment centres rather than the traditional incarceration facilities has been a continued plea by most judges throughout the state since the draconian laws went into effect.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws dictated a "One sentence fits all" approach to be administered by the courts. These modifications eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences that judges were limited to, and gives them the option of allowing eligible drug-addicted defendants to participate in a treatment programs.

One of the few notable comments from our Governor came in the form of a quote:
“Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, we did not treat the people who were addicted; we locked them up under some of the nation’s harshest sentences. Families were broken, money was wasted and we continued to wrestle with the statewide drug problem.”

Don't think there wasn't strong opposition to the changes. From what I've read, the state's District Attorneys Association opposed the legislation with a passion. The DAA is uncomfortable having Judges make decisions that may differ to what they consider hard line penalties. They cite the lack of clear standards set for drug treatment statewide.

From what public health and rehab officials have told me, we greatly under-utilize our drug rehab options and instead favor the "Lock Em Up" mentality that developed since the 70's. We've since filled our county jails across the state with non-violent drug addicts that could have been treated and sent out to have productive lives.

Instead, we have 20 something pot-heads doing time and then after serving, release a hardened criminal back to society. If you look this up on the AP you'll see there are about 2,000 felons that could presumably petition to have their cases reconsidered, whereas the courts would have to weigh these new standards in doing so. Half are from the NY Metro area.

I know that sounds threatening, but according to that same article, there are re-entry plans for obtaining housing, jobs, training, treatment and other services once they are released back into the community.

I guess this brings an additional question to the Ulster County Jail issue. Our push to build a new one was predicated on the idea that we didn't have the space to serve our needs in incarceration. (that and the poor conditions) With the possible decrease in Felony charges and more toward the rehabilitation of the non-violent offenders, will this open up more space at the jail?


Anonymous said...

Where are you getting your data? There are no 20 something pot heads going to prison for 5 or 10 in this state unless they shot 2 people with a stolen machine gun. This is already one of the most lenient states in the country. People make anecdotal sweeping generalizations with no facts. There is nobody going to prison in NY that didn't already get numerous chances. Everybody gets probation on their first drug felonies and I mean drug sales (and hard drugs, cocaine or heroin not marijuana...they just yell at you for that). The second time they might get the 6 month boot camp "shock". The third time you might have to actually do maybe 9 months and we are still talking sales. Possession, you will be on probation every time and that is felony possession...way past personal use. YOU ARE COMPLETELY MISINFORMED.

Anonymous said...

The antiquated drug laws we are speaking of have been chipped away over the last few years. True, we have a more lenient sentencing structure than years past, but that's because we are slowly maturing since the Rockefeller Lock-Em-All-Up days.
What I think you've done here is announce the due date on the past legislation that profoundly changed those laws for the better.

Addicts still end up in Ulster County Jail. It's wrong to use marijuana as the substance example, because it is the least prosecuted of the drugs that plague the community, but I get your point. Even if 1:06 doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Let me say that a few years ago, when My brother got mixed up with drugs and some not so good people, the attempt to put him away in prison was made by the ADA. An effort I have never witnessed before and never want to again.
My brother was, offered a second chance from the judge against the wishes of the ADA. Through the efforts of the system and his insurance company, he got the help he needed and I now have the brother that I thought I would never get back.
If this additional modification gets more people like him on the road to recovery rather than the road to the big house, then I couldn't be happier.

Anonymous said...

Portugal decriminalised all drug use, and guess what. Drug use declined. Education not legislation is the only way forward. The war on drugs is pointless. Take the profit out of drug dealing, put the money saved through reduced enforcement costs, into rehabilitation