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December 9, 2004

More on Rockefeller and other drug sentencing reform

The discussion and analysis of New York's reform of its harsh Rockefeller drug sentencing laws (noted here) continues to be nuanced.  As detailed in articles and editorials from various New York papers, there is praise that something has been done, but criticisms of how limited the reforms are.  This NPR report captures all the perspectives quite effectively.

This New York Times article particularly focuses on the disappointment felt by advocates for major drug sentencing reform, and it notes data that the new reforms may only affect the sentences of 446 prisoners from a total New York state population of 15,600 felons imprisoned on drug charges. This Newday opinion piece by Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, echoes similar themes; Gangi complains that the law still does not give judges sufficient discretion in drug sentencing cases.

Meanwhile, in a developing story that will surely get much less press, this AP article coming from South Dakota details that drug sentencing reform is a key component major changes proposed by the South Dakota Criminal Code Revision Commission.  The proposed reforms apparently suggest eliminating a number of mandatory minimum sentences, while also increasing the available maximum sentence for many drug crimes:

One measure endorsed by the commission would remove mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes. For instance, judges no longer would be required to put people in prison for at least one year if caught dealing methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.

The proposal also would increase several drug penalties, and it attempts to add uniformity in the link between penalties and the quantities of drugs involved in crimes.

Currently, people can be put in prison for up to 10 years if they are convicted of dealing any amount of hard drugs. A trace quantity is treated the same as 100 pounds.  The legislation provides up to 15 years for selling one pound or less of cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin and 25 years for more than a pound.

Mandatory minimum sentences should be repealed, said Circuit Judge Tim Dallas Tucker of Madison. He said judges should have full discretion to determine if the facts of cases merit tough prison terms or leniency. "The individual judge is in the best position to decide ... what penalty should be imposed," Tucker said.

Changes also are recommended in marijuana laws. The current mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for felony marijuana dealing would be eliminated, but maximum sentences would be lengthened. The bill also would provide a lighter sentence for simple marijuana possession....

December 9, 2004 at 07:09 AM | Permalink


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I am a New York State resident on parole for 3rd degree attempted sale of a controlled substanceI served 5 years and now on parole. I am trying to move forward with my life. I am asking if there is a change where I can ask to be resentenced and have the time I have on parole removed. I would like to move down south I have a good paying job lined up but my new parole officer has ordered me to go on public assistance. I can't afford an attorney.

Posted by: Robert Forshey | Sep 17, 2005 4:35:33 PM

My son is currently incarcerated for a
drug charge, he was told of a brand new
reform, which reduces the sentence to 65%
of the original sentence, can you give us
any further information on this? Thank you

Posted by: Patricia Cumming | Oct 24, 2005 8:14:17 PM

Could I have the minimum and maxium sentences for criminal possession of a CDS is the 3rd, 4th, and 7th degree. Also unlawful posession of marijuana. Also laws for unlawful possession of a firearm

Posted by: Dabness | Dec 9, 2005 8:28:16 PM

My husband was sentenced to a 3 to life in 1995 he was fine until 2002 where he was sentenced by supreme court to a 2-4. From what we heard that makes his new term 2 to life. Now he is release date should be in october because his parole officer said that he has to give 3 good years. But his name supposedly came down on the early merit release list from albany. But that was last october. So what should he do? we want to move to florida and we are stuck. How does this new changed drug law help him or hurt him?

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