Agreement To Reform New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws Ends Harsh Sentences for Non-violent Addicts

eHezi Archives 9 Comments

Focuses on Treatment Rather than Punishment to End the Cycle of Addiction

Albany, NY
— Governor David A. Paterson pictured left), Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith and
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced a three-way agreement calling
for sweeping reform of the State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. The agreement eliminates
the harsh sentences that the Rockefeller Drug Laws mandated by giving judges
total authority to divert non-violent addicts to treatment and greatly
expanding drug treatment programs. The agreement strikes a careful and
appropriate balance to ensure that non-violent addicted offenders get the
treatment they need while predatory kingpins get the punishment they deserve. 

“I have been fighting to overhaul the drug laws and restore judicial discretion
in narcotics cases since I began my career in public service as a State Senator
nearly a quarter-century ago,” Governor Paterson said. “As a resident and
representative of Harlem, I saw first-hand the
devastating effect that drugs have on our communities, and the devastating
effect that ill-considered drug laws and drug policies have had on individuals,
families and neighborhoods.”

The Governor added: “I have seen too many lives destroyed by outrageously harsh
and ineffective mandatory sentencing laws, and I have also seen too many lives
ruined by despicable dealers who prey on the vulnerabilities and addictions of
others. I believe this agreement strikes the right balance, and I urge the
Legislature to enact it immediately, before more lives and communities are
needlessly destroyed.”

Senate Majority Leader Smith said: “Today marks the beginning of a new era for New
York’s sentencing laws. Rockefeller Drug Law reform
will reverse years of ineffective criminal laws, protect communities and save
taxpayers millions of dollars that were wasted on the current policy. With more
money going toward treatment instead of costly imprisonment, our State will
finally have a smarter policy, giving families a fighting chance in the war on

Assembly Speaker Silver said: “Long before we had partners in either the Executive
or in the Senate, the Assembly Majority was fighting for real reform of the
Rockefeller Drug Laws. With this legislation, we have taken, at long last, a
giant leap in establishing a more just, a more humane and a more effective drug
policy in the State of New York.
No longer will drug use and addiction be considered solely a criminal matter in
this State, but a public health matter as well. This legislation recognizes
that drug addiction is a disease which calls out for treatment rather than
incarceration. I commend the tenacity and the dedication of my colleagues and
the leadership of Assemblymembers Aubry, Lentol and Weinstein for their
unyielding commitment to this issue.”

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson representing Mount Vernon
(pictured right) said: “Today, the Governor and the Legislature have agreed on a major change in
public policy. We have created a balanced approach to drug addiction and crime.
Our ability to reduce the flow of drugs in our communities is dependent on our
ability to reduce the demand. We are now shifting resources to treat drug
addiction as a medical problem. By diverting addicts to drug treatment courts,
we believe we can get people off drugs and thereby reduce the demand for them.
Study after study shows that our policies will make our communities safer and
save the taxpayers millions of dollars. Today, we begin anew, offering
offenders an opportunity to receive treatment, while maintaining that the
safety and security of our neighborhoods, cities, and State remains paramount.”

Senator John L. Sampson said: “This is a promise made, and a promise kept. The
Rockefeller Drug Laws have decimated communities and destroyed lives. Our
Democratic conference said that once in the Majority we would be instrumental
in making changes that positively impact all people across our State. Taking on
this issue in our first year as the Majority shows the people that the Senate
is serious and will not back down from the big issues. Reforms we made in 2004
were just a down payment, we’ve now paid off the mortgage. So I congratulate the
Governor and members of the Assembly. I also congratulate my colleagues,
Senators Schneiderman and Hassell-Thompson, who along with myself, were at the
table and the forefront of the push to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”

Senator Eric T. Schneiderman said: “This legislation delivers a big dose of
sanity to our State’s sentencing practices. It will make our communities safer,
save money and, most importantly, save lives. Thousands of people from every
corner of this State will benefit from these reforms. Today NewYork chooses
treatment over incarceration—30 years is enough.”

Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry said: “My Assembly colleagues and I continue in
our pledge not to give up our fight for greater reform of New
York State ’s
ineffective and imprudent drug laws. While today’s agreement brings us closer
to our goal, we recognize the need to do more. We will continue to work with
our partners to completely reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol said: “Thirty-six years ago I voted against the
enactment of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It was clear to me that simply locking
drug offenders away without treatment would not be effective. I am pleased that
we are finally towards turning this travesty around and judges will once again
have more of the discretion they need.”

Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein said: “Judicial discretion has always been
one of the core principles for which the Assembly has fought. With the
expansion of drug courts and other options to treat addicts, we are moving
toward dealing with the underlying problems of drug offenders – giving them the
opportunity to get treatment and reduce recidivism in New

The agreement will give judges the discretion to divert non-violent drug
addicted individuals to treatment alternatives that are shown to be far more
successful than prison in ending the cycle of addiction. Crucially, it also
commits tens of millions of dollars to existing and new treatment programs.

“It makes no sense to give judges the authority to place non-violent addicted
offenders into treatment if there is nowhere to treat them,” Governor Paterson
said. “We must not only overhaul the drug laws, but also provide an
infrastructure to ensure that we successfully rehabilitate those who are

There are three significant pieces of the agreement. First, it creates a drug
treatment program to be administered by drug court judges.

Under this program, judges will have discretion to place
addicted first and second-time drug offenders into judicially-approved alcohol
and substance abuse treatment – over the objections of prosecutors.

This agreement also recognizes that drug-addicted persons
often commit other crimes, such as property and theft offenses. This agreement
will make treatment available to these non-violent addicted offenders who
commit these offenses.

The agreement maximizes an addicted offender’s chance of
success in overcoming addiction, by relying on New York’s
highly successful drug courts to administer the new treatment model. Drug
courts use specially-trained judges who build relationships with offenders,
closely monitor their progress and reward their successes. They are also
staffed with case managers and vocational and employment specialists to assist
offenders in obtaining education and jobs.

For the first time, the agreement gives judges the authority
to dismiss all charges or seal the arrest and conviction records of offenders
who successfully complete a judicially-sanctioned treatment program. It also
gives judges complete discretion to determine an appropriate penalty for those
offenders who are unable to succeed in the treatment program.

The agreement recognizes that relapses are often part of
recovery from long-term drug addiction. It would require judges to consider
whether a non-incarceratory remedy, such as heightened supervision or more
frequent testing and treatment, could effectively be used if an offender under
court supervision suffers a relapse.

The agreement vastly expands the availability of drug
treatment programs and commits tens of millions of dollars to inpatient
treatment programs, outpatient treatment programs and community residential

Recognizing that some offenders may require more supervision
than can be provided through community-based drug treatment programs, the
agreement expands the use of programs such as the “shock” incarceration program
and the Willard drug treatment program, to give judges additional sentencing
options for these offenders.

The agreement also permits the State Division of Parole to
discharge early from continued parole supervision those drug offenders who have
demonstrated success and rehabilitation while serving a term of post-release

Second, the agreement relieves new offenders from some of the old Rockefeller
Drug Law’s mandatory sentencing provisions and provides additional relief to
offenders who remain incarcerated under the old laws.

The agreement eliminates mandatory State prison sentences
for first-time class B felony drug offenders and second-time non-violent class
C, D and E drug offenders, making them eligible for a term of probation that
could also include drug treatment, or a local jail sentence.

The agreement permits class B drug felons who meet
eligibility criteria and who are currently serving Rockefeller Drug Law
sentences to enter the six-month shock incarceration program when they are
within three years of release. If successful, they would be entitled to early
release from prison.

The agreement also requires the Board of Parole to consider
current, lower sentencing ranges when deciding whether to release a class B
drug offender to parole supervision.

Third, the agreement ensures that offenders who are not
addicted, but who profit from the addictions of others, are appropriately
sentenced to State prison.

The Governor believes that law enforcement should target drug
kingpins instead of low-level drug users and his agreement creates a new drug
“kingpin” offense that targets organized drug traffickers who profit from and
prey on drug users.

The agreement also creates new crimes to ensure that adults
who sell drugs to children are appropriately required to serve time in State

Finally, the agreement retains mandatory prison sentences
for class B predicate drug offenders, but allows judges to impose lower prison
terms that are similar to those in other states.

eHeziAgreement To Reform New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws Ends Harsh Sentences for Non-violent Addicts

Comments 9

  1. Addiction is by itself a very scary concept. I knew that the drug war and the drug policy was brought about to reduce the illicit use of drugs. Found some more nice information here.
    Thanks for sharing very nice article here.

  2. puff puff give! legally cool. 21st century America needs to do this or our Prisons will need to be built like skyscrapers to fit the future fellons too!
    not a pretty situation but Weeeeeeeeeeeed aint bad! I think its better than booze! no hangovers & no garbage after. Win Win for the “devils lettuce”

  3. Read Sunday’s Daily News for part one of a series about all the disgraceful corruption in Albany. There also is an editorial on this important subject.

  4. Well, that should do the trick. I guess when all the dealers saying they have addiction problems and go into treatment centers with real addicts, they will get a whole new clientell to sell drugs to. What a wonderfull idea

  5. This is example 4,927 of what’s wrong with Albany. They spend like drunks, can’t balance a budget….but boy, they can free felons.

Leave a Reply

This comment will be displayed anonymously. Your name and email address will not be published.

Comments that are off topic will be removed. If you want a topic to be covered, email me at:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.