Governor Pataki Unveils Proposal to Reform New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws

Press Release January 17, 2001
Media Contact

Sen. John Dunne at 518-787-7600 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916

The Campaign for Effective Criminal Justice, an organization of over a dozen distinguished leaders in law enforcement, politics, business, and clergy intent on reforming New York’s drug sentencing laws, commends Governor Pataki for proposing legislation to reform the state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. According to CECJ Chair, former State Senator John Dunne,

“We believe the proposal put forth by Governor Pataki is a good start towards “right-sizing” New York’s justice system to strike the appropriate balance between public safety and public health. We hope that reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws will be at the top of the agenda of our legislative leaders and result in the enactment of legislation that will restore fairness and rationality to our approach to substance abuse in New York.”

The Governor’s proposal rightly raises the main issues essential to meaningful reform – reduction in sentences; restoration of judicial discretion to divert appropriate offenders to drug treatment and, most importantly – retroactive application to some of the thousands of New Yorkers currently incarcerated for drug offenses. In putting forth this proposal, Governor Pataki joins the ranks of a growing number of public officials who have proposed departing from the needlessly punitive drug sentencing policies of the past and enacting legislation that recognizes the effectiveness of drug treatment over incarceration.

According to CECJ, the governor’s proposal does not go far enough. It does not provide relief for the majority of incarcerated drug offenders, nor does it restore judicial discretion in the vast number of drug cases. In addition, the budget proposal released by the Governor’s office on Tuesday, while providing increased funding for a broad array of worthy initiatives, did not include any increased funding for expanding drug treatment capacity. Currently, New York has insufficient capacity to meet the treatment needs of uninsured persons with substance abuse problems. “If the Governor and the legislature are serious about increasing and promoting alternatives to incarceration throughout the state for nonviolent drug offenders, a major increase in funding to expand drug treatment services will be needed,” says Dunne.

During the past year both Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have expressed their support for “meaningful” reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. CECJ’s definition of “meaningful” reform includes:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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