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The Remarks of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Rockefeller Drug Law Press Conference

State Capitol, Albany, NY
Wednesday, June 8, 2005


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On behalf of the Chair of the Assembly's Standing Committee on Corrections, Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, as well as:

  • Assembly Member Joe Lentol, Chair of our Committee on Codes;

  • Assembly Member Helene Weinstein, Chair of our Committee on the Judiciary;

  • Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of our Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse;

  • Assembly Member Peter Rivera, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force;

  • Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat, Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus;

  • And a host of our Majority colleagues.

I am announcing that later today, the Assembly will take up legislation on the floor of the House - legislation we anticipate passing - that will further advance reform of the State's Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Remember, the Assembly Majority - with the leadership of Chairman Jeff Aubry - has, over the years, offered and advocated for the comprehensive reform of these draconian drug laws.

We were able to reach a bipartisan compromise last year that was the "first real step" toward reform, and commitments were made by all of the parties to continue reforming the archaic Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Although we continue to push for a full and comprehensive overhaul - simply because it is the right thing to do - we know that realistically, total reform will require a thoughtful and gradual process.

We're not expecting the final step on this, we're looking for the next step; and that "next" step is to address the substance abuse that often lies at core of criminal behaviors.

The cornerstone of our plan is to further reduce crime rates by ensuring that non-violent offenders complete effective drug treatment. To that end, the Assembly Majority's plan:

  • Gives judges greater discretion to impose appropriate sentences - including treatments - that fit the facts and circumstances of each drug-related crime.

  • We increase sentences of major drug traffickers.

  • We increase sentences for adult offenders use children in their drug peddling.

  • And we impose a mandatory five-year determinate sentence on offenders who carry a loaded handgun while selling or attempting to sell illegal drugs.

In our legislation, we also recognize that enacting and fully funding Chief Judge Judith Kaye's initiative to expand drug courts to every county is key to providing necessary treatment reforms.

  • We require mandatory drug or alcohol treatment for appropriate juvenile delinquents and juvenile offenders.

  • And we make the Willard drug-treatment facility a more effective treatment and crime-reducing tool.

Chairman Aubry and Chairman Lentol will address the specifics of our legislation in a few moments. Also joining us and speaking on this legislation are:

  • Albany County District Attorney David Soares;

  • Michael Blain, Director of Public Policy with the Drug Policy Alliance;

  • And, Anita Marton, Vice President of the Legal Action Center.

Before I turn the proceedings over to them, let me close by saying this:

The lives that have been wasted and lost to substance abuse and violence are among the saddest parts of our history.

Those for whom the culture of drugs and the culture of violence is a way of life; whose mission it is to add to the legions of addicted and self-destructive should be punished and punished severely.

In those instances where we are dealing with non-violent drug offenders; where we know from study after study that drug treatment can halt that slide into the abyss, we should strive to reclaim these lives and to reconnect these families.

This is the right thing to do. Let us continue to move this State in that direction.

New York State Assembly
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