Assembly Passes Rockefeller Drug Law Reform
Plan puts emphasis on treating drug addiction while saving money
April 16, 2004
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, announced that the Assembly passed a plan to reform New York’s ineffective and outdated Rockefeller drug laws, giving judges the discretion to sentence some non-violent offenders to compulsory drug treatment programs instead of prison. The plan could save New York as much as $164 million annually, reducing prison crowding while cracking down on violent offenders and treating the causes of drug-related crime. "I hope we’ve finally learned after 30 years that if we want to fight drugs and drug crimes, we first have to fight addiction," Assemblyman Dinowitz said. "Treatment is a much more effective tool than incarceration in a lot of circumstances, and this measure gives the criminal justice system the power to find the most appropriate sentence. Our goal should be for as many people as possible to be productive taxpayers and citizens. That is why the time to act on real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws is now. Treatment for substance abuse will make a difference in the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and their families and save the state millions of dollars." Drug treatment is 15 times more effective than mandatory-minimum sentences in reducing serious crimes committed by drug offenders, according to a Rand Corporation study. Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman has estimated that graduates of drug court diversion programs commit two-thirds fewer crimes than offenders who are simply incarcerated. The Assembly bill (A.7078-A) would:
- give greater discretion in recommending drug treatment as an alternative to prison;
- create a new drug-related Class B-II felony for certain lower-level sale or possession cases involving relatively small amounts of controlled substances; and
- give judges more flexibility in sentencing individuals on Class B and lower felonies.