The State Legislature, after years of stalemate, passed legislation to reform the draconian drug laws enacted under Governor Rockefeller. The legislation addresses first-time, nonviolent drug offenders who have received unfairly lengthy prison sentences under the old laws. It emphasizes drug treatment and other prison alternatives; it also allows for resentencing of people still in prison for low-level drug crimes, while toughening sanctions against violent drug offenders.
Rockefeller drug laws, enacted in the 1970s, have led to huge numbers of non-violent drug offenders in our state's prison system. It’s well known from studies that drug treatment is much more effective than imprisonment, both in terms of recidivism and costs, and that the millions of dollars used to imprison non-violent drug offenders could be put to better use.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz stated, "While I am pleased that this measure will provide appropriate sentencing reductions for thousands of non-violent offenders, as the chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I am disappointed over the absence of funding for treatment for drug users. It’s not enough merely to emphasize drug treatment. Funding must be available. Passing drug law reform without funding may be is a missed opportunity. It’s indisputable that treatment would help thousands of drug users released from prison get back on their feet; it also would save the state millions of dollars a by reducing recidivism rates from the benefits of treatment."
"However, I am pleased that this legislation will provide possible relief for up to 400 incarcerated drug offenders who are serving the longest drug sentences – 15 years to life; they will now be able to seek judicial resentencing. But by not including full judicial discretion, too many low-level drug offenders will continue to be given long sentences. As Chair, I am fully committed to working with the leaders of the treatment field and my colleagues in the state legislature to continue the fight for reform, to advocate for more judicial discretion and to ensure that low-level drug offenders get the necessary treatment. I applaud Speaker Silver and my Assembly Majority colleagues for their persistence in supporting these major changes as the first step in real reform," Dinowitz concluded.