Senate Caves to Prosecutors, Attempts to Undermine Negotiations for Real Rockefeller Drug Law Reform
In the middle of negotiations for significant Rockefeller drug law reform, the Senate passed a bill today that would limit relief to only one half of 1% of drug offenders entering New York's state prison each year and 2.5% of those currently incarcerated.
Critics of the new proposal believe that the Senate bowed to the will of state prosecutors, who last week lobbied against any meaningful reform of the draconian drug laws.
Senator Dale Volker (R-Erie County), who has described himself as the "keeper of the keys" of New York State's prison system (see attached New York Times article), declared that this legislation was "true Rockefeller reform."
Reform advocates and family members of the thousands who were left out of this legislation are dismayed at this eleventh hour attempt to redefine the issue.
This legislation represents a retrenchment from the governor's bill, passed by the Senate last week, which also fell far short of real reform.
"I am dismayed and disappointed by this blatant attempt by those who have a vested interest in keeping our prisons full to block the progress that we've made towards meaningful reform," said Deborah Small, director of public policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Senate is moving backward in order to make the governor's position seem more palatable."
Critics of the new Senate bill see this as an attempt to appease the District Attorneys, at the expense of the family members of those serving time under these harsh 29-year-old laws.
The public debate over this issue has defined meaningful reform as constituting four essential elements:
- Sentencing reduction for all categories of non-violent drug offenders;
- Greater judicial discretion to divert appropriate offenders into drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration;
- Retroactive relief for those currently incarcerated;
- Resources for expanding drug treatment and supporting successful reentry into the community.