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December 7, 2004

Movement on mandatories?

There are this morning interesting discussions of mandatory minimum sentencing in federal and state systems.

On the federal front, there is this potent op-ed in today's Washington Post entitled "Mandatory Madness" authored by Professor Barry Scheck, who is currently serving as the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  (Thanks to CrimProf Blog for the tip here.) The piece calls upon Congress to use the legislative moment that Booker and Fanfan may create "to rectify an unfair and senseless disgrace that it should have confronted years ago: mandatory minimum sentences."  Stressing the facts of the Angelos case (background here, commentary here and here), the recommendations of the ABA's Kennedy Commission (available here), and the costs of incarcerating low-level, small-time and nonviolent offenders, Professor Scheck concludes:

There is a developing consensus among judges, prosecutors and the defense bar that something must be done to restore sanity to federal sentencing. Let's hope it infiltrates the Capitol. Congress and the Sentencing Commission should create a blue-ribbon panel to study constitutional and human issues raised in the sentencing cases now before the Supreme Court. The panel should look at the good and the bad of what developed from the last effort at sentencing reform, 20 years ago. We can make the system better.

On the state front, TalkLeft notes here that there is talk once again in New York about reforming the state's Rockefeller drug laws.  As TalkLeft notes, a key advocate pushing for reform is Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who, according to this New York Post article, is advocating a specific proposal that would "toughen sentences for violent and repeat drug felons while channeling low-level dealers away from the current mandatory prison sentences and into treatment."  This recent Newday article provides more details on the legislative debate over drug sentencing reform, which has been raging in Albany for quite some time (as detailed here in FAMM's coverage).

More background on New York's Rockefeller drug laws can be found here from the Drug Policy Alliance, and a compelling (and lengthy) report critical of these laws, produced by the group Physicians for Human Rights and entitled "Unjust and Counterproductive: New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws," can be accessed here (with highlights here).

December 7, 2004 at 11:08 AM | Permalink


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As much as I would hope Congress would study mandatory minima, it's highly unlikely--especially in the wake of B&F, it is possible that Congress will enact MORE mandatory minimum penalties, not less (because, as Prof. Bibas might say, the "scalpal" of the Guidelines will be removed, and Congress will resort to the "hatchet" of mandatory punishments). The last thing Congress will want to do is be soft on crime, or allow a "free pass" period where drug, fraud, and other felons can get away with crimes for a relatively low punishment.

Posted by: District Clerk Battling Blakely | Dec 7, 2004 11:37:11 AM

Would someone please address for me the absolute and total waste of taxpayers money in relation to men and women serving time for nominal, non-violent offenses. I have seen the inadequacies of the system firsthand, and it is appalling. We put people in prison camps where no useful purpose is served that I have ever seen. Laziness and unproductivity is not only the norm but encouraged. Why not have these offenders give back to the community that they have somehow wronged. I think that 20 hours of community service a week would be an excellent solution. Not only would that solve alot of the overcrowding problems, hit the offender where it hurts (in the pocketbook), but think of all the people that could benefit from the free services that could be offered. I would love to hear other opinions on this. Thanks, Jessica D.

Posted by: Jessica | Dec 7, 2004 2:06:52 PM

i have a question about the reformed rockefeller laws. DO the new laws have post release supervision? ON a1 and a2 felonies? all determinate sentences after 98 have post release but these changes are the first of non violent crimes which have determinate instead on indeterminate. since the new sentences are determinate does the post release supervision that apply to violent offenders now apply to these newly reformed laws?

Posted by: seth roberts | Jan 10, 2005 5:09:40 PM

I am a concerned relative needing information for a loved one.
What's the latest update on the rockefella law for A2? I heard that Pataki signed the reform for A2 felonies 8/05.I had no luck finding the NY Law Journel for the information. I was told it was in the Sept 1.2005 issue.I would appreciate any information you may have on A2.

Joanne L

Posted by: Joanne M Lloyd | Sep 12, 2005 10:58:42 PM


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I am a concerned relative needing information for a loved one.
What's the latest update on the rockefella law for A2? I heard that Pataki signed the reform for A2 felonies 8/05.I had no luck finding the NY Law Journel for the information. I was told it was in the Sept 1.2005 issue.I would appreciate any information you may have on A2.

Posted by: woman | Oct 31, 2007 6:18:26 PM

I was sentenced as part of a plea deal to a flat bid of 2 years with 3 years post release supervision, on the charge of att robbery in the 2nd, an action I've heard was illegal due to the time of parole being longer then my orig.sentence what I'm looking for is the case law # and or new york state statue that shows this?

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