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October 23, 2007

A brewing brouhaha over sentencing reform in New York

As detailed in prior posts here and here, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer earlier this year established through an executive order the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform (NYSCSR).  And, as detailed in this AP story and this official press release, last week the NYSCSR released a preliminary report (available here) which "outlined several major preliminary recommendations to improve the state’s current sentencing structure, calling for a more simplified and streamlined system focused on public safety, consistency and fairness." 

This preliminary report, entitled "The Future of Sentencing in New York State: A Preliminary Proposal for Reform," is a very impressive 100-page document that makes a lot of very sound points and recommendations.  However, as detailed in this strong article in City Limits, there is some dissension in the NYSCSR ranks:

The future of a pair of provocative criminal justice issues — parole for felons, and New York state's strict drug laws — remains in the air, as a commission proposing sweeping prison sentencing changes announced it was split on two fundamental issues....

The Commission recommended effectively ending parole for most crimes, but three of the 11 commissioners did not support that view.  And because commission members were unable to reach consensus on whether mandatory minimum prison sentences are appropriate for drug offenders, the panel largely put off discussion over whether to amend the Rockefeller drug laws.

The NYSCSR's decision to duck the Rockefeller drug laws has met with pointed criticism, as evidenced by this press release from the Drug Policy Alliance.  It notes: "Advocates and family members of those impacted by the Rockefeller Drug Laws responded to NYSCSR report by their voicing disappointment over the Commission's lack of findings."

As detailed here, the NYSCSR has scheduled a series of public hearing around New York next month.  it will be interesting to see how much attention these hearing receive and how the NYSCSR deals with its divisions and outside criticisms.

October 23, 2007 at 09:47 PM | Permalink


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In my mind the most needed to be addressed noncapital sentencing issues of the day (although not all apply to NY) are the Rockefeller era drug laws (& like laws in other states), the juv. LWOP, the standards for unadjudicated conduct to enhance a sentence (again how does this square with Apprendi & progeny?), excessively prolonged SHU stays, as well as the exclusion of meaningful victim participation in many/most jurisdictions' sentencing (as well as most other parts of the criminal justice process). That the NYSCSR punted on almost all those issues, esp. NY's Rockefeller drug laws, & reflects very poorly on them.

Posted by: nony | Oct 23, 2007 10:36:54 PM

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