Opponents Say State Drug Laws Were Changed 

Opponents Say State Drug Laws Were Changed 
Posted by CN Staff on March 28, 2009 at 07:47:49 PT
By Gene Warner, News Staff Reporter
Source: Buffalo News
New York -- The battle lines have been drawn. Let the political war over the dismantling of the Rockefeller Drug Laws begin. A political firestorm ignited across the state on Friday, starting with Gov. David A. Paterson and Democratic legislative leaders announcing an agreement to make “sweeping changes” in the Rockefeller Drug Laws, during a late-morning news conference in Albany. Not long after those cameras were turned off, Republican legislators and law enforcement officials held their own news briefings to counter the Democrats’ claims and cry foul over the way the agreement was hammered out in secret and put into the state budget. 
The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973, mandate harsh prison terms even for many nonviolent drug offenders and take some discretion away from judges at sentencing. The agreement between Paterson and his fellow Democratic leaders in the Assembly and State Senate would shift the emphasis, for nonviolent drug users, from jail time to treatment. “Drug abuse is an illness,” the governor said. “More and more, we’re discovering that it’s a treatable illness.” Paterson, along with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, claimed the agreement could save $250 million for the state. They also say the pact would provide judges with the sentencing discretion they need and increase the penalties where they should be stiffened — in dealing with drug “kingpins” and dealers who sell to children. Nonsense, cried the Republican legislators and their friends in law enforcement. “I don’t see where this is going to save the state a cent,” Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, said during an early afternoon news conference in the Mahoney State Office Building. The agreement hammered out by the Democratic leaders Thursday night would set up what amounts to a “jail break,” putting prisoners on the street and hoping they get treatment, the veteran senator said. “This is a bill that will create havoc not only in the streets of New York City and Buffalo, but it will spread to the suburbs,” Volker added. Volker — joined at the news conference by Assembly members Jane L. Corwin and Jack F. Quinn III, Sen. George D. Maziarz and Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard— also objected on political grounds. “They put it in the budget for one reason, and one reason only,” Quinn said. “They know that’s the only way they can get it passed.” Volker, Maziarz and others also pointed out that the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been changed numerous times since their passage in 1973, with perhaps the greatest changes enacted in 2004. Earlier, one key statistic jumped out from the Democratic leaders’ 35-minute news conference, available across the state via webcast: It costs $45,000 a year to house a low-level, nonviolent drug offender in state prison. Multiply that figure by the 13,000 such offenders imprisoned across the state, and you get a figure of $585 million a year. The Democratic leaders also plan to use some federal stimulus money to fund many of the drug-treatment slots. The agreement, announced amid the ongoing battle over a new state budget, calls for several key reforms: • For nonviolent drug users who are addicted and don’t prey on others, the state would opt for treatment, rather than mandated jail time. So judges would be allowed to send some addicted first-and second-time drug offenders into approved alcohol and drug-treatment programs — even over the objections of prosecutors. • Gone would be the mandatory minimums for many drug offenses, a key provision of the Rockefeller Drug Laws that tied the hands of judges in many cases. The agreement would eliminate mandatory state prison sentences for first-time Class B felony drug offenders and second- time nonviolent offenders. Those people could be sentenced to probation, including drug treatment, or a local jail sentence. • According to the agreement and Paterson’s comments, hundreds of nonviolent felons already imprisoned under the Rockefeller Drug Laws would be able to apply for relief from their sentences. • To counter any suspicion that the agreement is soft on the key players in the drug world, the pact calls for a new drug “kingpin” offense that targets those who prey on drug users. “As for the kingpins, the individuals who profit from ruining the lives of others, their [punishment] will be increased,” the governor said. The agreement also calls for new crimes that would toughen the sentences against those adults who sell drugs to children. The Republicans may be in the minority in Albany, but they’re vowing a spirited fight here. “I don’t think it’s over yet,” Volker said. “We’re going to do everything we can to weaken [the agreement] and try to modify it, so it doesn’t kill the criminal-justice system.”Complete Title: Opponents Say State Drug Laws Were Changed in SecretSource: Buffalo News (NY)Author: Gene Warner, News Staff ReporterPublished: March 28, 2009Copyright: 2009 The Buffalo NewsWebsite: LetterToEditor buffnews.comRelated Articles: Deal on State’s Drug Laws Means Resentencing Agree To Soften Drug Laws
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #4 posted by GeoChemist on March 29, 2009 at 05:24:45 PT
It's only underhanded when........
"Republican legislators and law enforcement officials held their own news briefings to counter the Democrats’ claims and cry foul over the way the agreement was hammered out in secret and put into the state budget"Sucks, doesn't it
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by George Servantes on March 28, 2009 at 11:14:31 PT
It's sick
It's sick and against common sense to send someone to jail for simple possession of any drug. It shouldn't be criminal but health issue. 
These laws are simply there to control and punish minority and poor. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Sam adams on March 28, 2009 at 09:01:46 PT
it's telling that at no time has an addiction professional, health authority, victims' group, ANYTHING other than LEO and their political stooges opposed this reform. As I said, pretenses are vanishing and we're left with raw power. These upstate goons are fighting tooth and nail to protect their gulags filled with blacks and latinosAt the same time don't forget that the corporate elite has devastated the region's middle class factory jobs, greedily sending it all to Chinese slaves over the last 30 years
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Richard Zuckerman on March 28, 2009 at 07:54:22 PT:
The other day, I made some telephone calls to New York State Assemblyman Silver and New York State Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Smith. Both offices told me that medical "Marijuana" Bill New York State Assembly Bill 4867-B has been voted through the New York State Assembly and that NEW YORK STATE SENATE ONLY HAS A COUPLE OF MORE MONTHS TO INTRODUCE A MED POT BILL OR ELSE THE AFOREMENTIONED ASSEMBLY BILL WILL DIE!! PLEASE CONTACT NEW YORK STATE SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO INTRODUCE A MED POT BILL, BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY BILL KICKS THE BUCKET???
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment