Pubdate: Tue, 22 May 2001
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The Gazette Newspapers
Author: Eugene A. Rowland
Note: The writer is treasurer of the Interfaith Alliance of New York State, 
Capital District Chapter.
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


The Capital District Chapter of the Interfaith Alliance, along with many 
religious and civic leaders across the state, supports the repeal of the 
Rockefeller Drug Laws. These laws have resulted in the incarceration of 
thousands of non-violent addicted individuals who use or sell small 
quantities of illegal drugs. Currently some 21,000 offenders, or 30 percent 
of the state prison population, are serving time for drug convictions. The 
length of prison sentences for minor drug offenses sometimes exceeds those 
imposed for more serious crimes such as murder or rape. The waste of human 
and financial resources is appalling - it costs the taxpayers of New York 
about $710 million per year to warehouse these prisoners. What is worse, 
the present system does little or nothing to address the addiction that 
underlies most drug offenses.

Numerous studies have shown mandatory drug treatment to be significantly 
more effective than long prison sentences in reducing drug-related crimes. 
Such treatment is more cost-effective, reduces recidivism, and enhances 
public safety by helping to rehabilitate drug offenders and return them to 
more productive lives.

To reduce unnecessary and expensive incarceration, enhance public safety 
and expand treatment of drug addiction, we endorse the following reforms:

1) That trial judges should be allowed to sentence non-violent addicted 
offenders to court-supervised, community-based treatment programs, in lieu 
of mandatory prison terms.

2) Most sentences for felony drug sale and possession should be 
substantially reduced, making them more consistent with sentences for other 
non-violent crimes.

3) Sentencing reform should be retroactive, so inmates serving time under 
current laws can petition the courts for review of their sentences.

4) Substance abuse treatment programs should be expanded substantially to 
accommodate increased use of these programs as an alternative to incarceration.

Some of the reforms described above were included in Gov. Pataki's proposed 
reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The state Legislature should act 
swiftly to implement a comprehensive reform package that will lead to a 
more balanced criminal justice system and a more just society.

Eugene A. Rowland ,Schenectady
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