Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jul 2001
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The Gazette Newspapers
Author: John R. Dunne
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


The reported claim by Robert Carney, president of the New York State
District Attorneys Association (June 20), that the Assembly drug-law
reform bill is "a step toward the decriminalizing of drugs," is absurd
and irresponsible and their latest attempt to derail the state
Legislature from meaningful reform.

To the contrary, the bill is a modest but balanced reform proposal
that would virtually keep intact the current harsh maximum prison
sentences for the most serious drug offenders, who would still face
terms of up to life in prison.

This claim of the district attorneys mischaracterizes the Assembly
bill and is simply a desperate power play in their misguided mission
to maintain control of the sentencing process.

They oppose the reasonable proposal that sentencing discretion be
given back to judges to determine whether, and for how long, a
offender should go to prison. And, except for the most serious drug
offenders and those who have previously been convicted of a prior
violent felony, judges would have the ability to divert drug-addicted
offenders to drug treatment, thereby saving the state tens of millions
of dollars while reducing recidivism.

Sentencing discretion should be restored to judges, where it
rightfully belongs. A fundamental principle of our system of justice
is that district attorneys prosecute and judges judge the appropriate
sentence that will protect community safety. Justice will be better
served when judges regain the right to make sentencing decisions, as
the Assembly bill would enable them to do.


The writer is a former state senator and chairman
of the Campaign for Effective Criminal Justice. 
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