Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jun 2002
Source: Post-Standard, The (NY)
Copyright: 2002, Syracuse Post-Standard
Author: Joan K. Christensen


To the Editor:

On June 17, the state Assembly passed a plan to reform New York's 
ineffective and outdated Rockefeller drug laws. The legislation would allow 
judges to send some nonviolent, lower-level offenders to effective drug 
treatment programs instead of prison. I was the only Central New York 
Assembly member to support this legislation. I believe it is a balanced and 
comprehensive approach that places an emphasis on helping to end the 
destructive cycle of drug abuse through treatment, while at the same time 
imposing stringent prison sentences for anyone convicted of possessing a 
loaded handgun with the intent to use it while selling or attempting to 
sell drugs. The Assembly plan also retains life sentences for drug kingpins 
who engage in major drug trafficking.

My vote aimed to keep negotiations on this issue moving forward, in direct 
response to concerns conveyed to me by my constituents. We have seen the 
devastating effect of drug addiction in our communities. Substance abuse is 
at the root of crime. The Assembly's plan is designed to get at the root 
cause of drug use - addiction. Our plan gives courts, prosecutors, prison 
officials and treatment providers the tools they need to fight drug 
addiction and reduce crime.

My vote took courage, because I decided to stand up for sound public policy 
and my constituents on a politically charged issue. The Assembly's plan 
moves us forward toward real reform of ineffective laws. We have the 
opportunity to save lives by shifting our laws away from a focus on 
retribution and toward rehabilitating drug abusers. I hope that the Senate 
and the governor will join with the Assembly to pass meaningful reforms to 
New York's drug laws.

Joan K. Christensen - Member, State Assembly

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