Thursday, March 26, 2009

NY Set To Repeal Most Of Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

For nearly forty years now, we as a state have been throwing people away to rot in jail cells for doing drugs. Naïvete and a rash propensity to act against a drug epidemic ended up feeding a growing prison-industrial complex and did nothing to counteract the core problems surrounding drug use in New York. The name Rockefeller did not only then correlate to money and power, it also took on one of the failed approaches of a "drug war." The idea of this being a "war" is the crux of the problem in how we deal with drugs. Drug problems need to be treated, not battled. Now with a Democratic majority in place in Albany, we'll finally be able to repeal the worst of those drug laws and focus on treatment.

From The NY Times:

Under the plan, judges would have the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders in all but the most serious drug offenses — known as A-level drug felonies — to treatment. As a condition of being sent to treatment, offenders would have to plead guilty. If they did not successfully complete treatment, their case would go back before a judge, who would again have the option of imposing a prison sentence.

Currently, judges are bound by a sentencing structure that requires minimum sentences of one year for possessing small amounts of cocaine or heroin, for example. Under the agreement reached by the governor and lawmakers, a judge could order treatment for those offenders.

Judges would also have the option of sending some repeat drug offenders to treatment. Repeat offenders accused of more serious drug crimes, however, could only go to treatment if they were found to be drug-dependent in an evaluation.

It's been a long time coming and this is at least one benefit of having the State Senate in Democratic hands. As far as drug law reform goes, this is a huge step forward for our state and we have the new majority to thank for it. Now imagine if this display of common sense could be thrust upon the other important items of the day that our government could address and correct.