Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jun 1999
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 1999, Newsday Inc.
Contact:  (516)843-2986
Author: John F. Dunne
Section: Letters


Regarding Sheryl McCarthy's column "Democrats Should Ease the Rockefeller
Laws" \{Viewpoints, May 24\}: As a member of the New York State Senate, I
supported the enactment of the Rockefeller drug laws intended  to reduce
illegal drug use and force dealers off the street.

The unhappy conclusion, after the hard experience of the last quarter
century, is that  those measures have failed to achieve their goals.

Instead, they have handcuffed our judges, contributed to filling our
prisons to dangerously crowded levels and denied sufficient drug treatment
alternatives to nonviolent addicted offenders.

I am hopeful that drug law reforms can be enacted this year that will
enhance public safety.

Any proposal adopted must allow judges to impose alternative sanctions,
particularly cost-effective drug treatment for nonviolent offenders.

Clearly the public understands that for many drug offenders, imprisonment
is  not the best option.

A recent poll demonstrates broad public support for drug  law reform.

It is not just a majority of those polled who would be more likely  to vote
for a legislator who supports a bill to reduce sentences for some drug
offenders, as McCarthy says. In fact, 51 percent said they would be more
likely  to do so. Moreover, 75 percent chose treatment over jail or prison
for those  convicted of drug possession, while only 19 percent chose jail
or prison.

Reforming our drug laws is both the right thing to do and the politically
safe thing to do.

John F. Dunne Albany   Editor's Note: The writer, a former state senator
from Long Island, is affiliated with the Campaign for Effective Criminal

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