Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel: State Budget Reforms Rockefeller Drug Laws

March 30, 2009
Great Neck – Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel is pleased to announce that the 2009-2010 state budget includes reforms to the 35-year-old Rockefeller Drug Laws that mandate minimum sentences for many lower-level drug offenders while maintaining maximum penalties.

“It’s been a long time, but we finally passed significant reforms of the outdated and ineffective Rockefeller Drug Laws. The reforms put an end to the “one-size-fits-all” approach that has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and has been unsuccessful in reducing illicit drug use among New Yorkers,” said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.

The Rockefeller Drug Law reforms restore judicial discretion to mandate treatment for lower-level drug offenders as a potential alternative to a lengthy state prison sentence. This legislation enables judges to craft tough, meaningful, fair sentences and helps break the seemingly never-ending cycle of drug abuse and violence.

The reforms will save New York taxpayers some of the millions of dollars it costs to incarcerate these offenders. The annual cost to taxpayers for incarceration is approximately $45,000 per inmate, an extraordinary cost when there are proven, successful alternatives for many lower-level, non-violent drug offenders.

Under this plan, the mandatory minimum sentence for most second offender class B drug felonies would be 2 years rather than 3.5 years. The minimum sentence for a second offender class C felony would be 1.5 years rather than 2 years, and a second offender class C felony could be considered for probation and treatment.

The Rockefeller Drug Law reforms will make the criminal justice system more effective and fair by:

  • Restoring sentencing discretion to judges
  • Making probation a sentencing option
  • Expanding other sentencing and substance abuse treatment options
  • Providing a framework for the successful reentry of drug offenders into society after completing their sentences
  • Allowing courts to consider new sentences for class B drug offenders remaining in prison under the old drug laws except those with a history of violent felony convictions

“These reforms will ensure that judges have the necessary discretion to send non-violent drug offenders to treatment while maintaining the ability to put those who deserve stiff sentences behind bars,” said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.