Assemblymember Cahill: New York is One Step Closer to Reforming Rockefeller Drug Laws

Progress made on drug sentencing but falls short of reform
December 7, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) applauded the State Legislature’s agreement to revise the current drug law sentencing standards. While the Assemblymember recognized the action as a significant movement towards improving New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws, he stopped short of calling it reform.

"I am pleased with the progress that was made today," Mr. Cahill said. "Revising the antiquated sentencing standards will provide much needed relief to the thousands of families who have seen loved ones with no history of violence sent to prison for possessing small quantities of controlled substances."

The Assembly Bill (A.11895) would replace current indeterminate sentencing standards, whereby a sentence range is specified, with determinate sentences of specific length followed by a period of "post-release supervision". This measure would also moderately reduce sentences for certain first-time, non-violent offenders. Under this legislation, some classes of offenders with prior violent felony convictions would see increased sentences. Some non-violent offenders would be eligible for less costly community-based substance abuse programs sooner.

The Assembly and Senate agreement still does not, however, give judges the discretion to divert non-violent addicted offenders to treatment programs as an alternative to prison. The bill also fails to expand drug treatment opportunities or make additional sentencing reforms.

"The absence of provisions for judicial discretion with regards to sentencing and financing for drug treatment centers means there is still much work to be done before we see true reform," said Mr. Cahill. "Sentencing reform ensures we begin to deal with the drug problem more effectively, that we fight drugs and crime – not the victims of addiction and poverty. I will continue to fight for full repeal of the overly harsh Rockefeller drug laws."