N.Y. Joins Campaign To Reform Drug Laws 

  N.Y. Joins Campaign To Reform Drug Laws 

Posted by FoM on January 22, 2001 at 11:34:54 PT
By Kevin Johnson, USA Today 
Source: USA Today 

When New York Gov. George Pataki announced plans to reduce prison terms for non-violent drug offenders last week, he joined an emerging national movement in acknowledging that harsh punishments have contributed to failed drug policy.In New Mexico this month, a state advisory committee proposed radical changes to existing drug laws that would do away with criminal penalties for marijuana possession and eliminate mandatory-minimum prison sentences for drug-related offenses.
The Massachusetts Legislature is considering restructuring the state's drug laws to reduce steep mandatory-mini- mum punishments for first-time offenders.And in Michigan, officials recently replaced mandatory life sentences with parole-eligible prison terms for first-time cocaine and heroin offenders.''The impetus for drug law reform in New York and across the nation has never been stronger,'' says Edward Jurith, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. ''We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem of drug abuse and drug-related crime.''Long mandatory-minimum prison sentences for drug offenders were the rage in the 1970s and '80s, when officials began to confront serious drug-related crime in their states.Nearly three decades later, those strict policies, some of which bought many first-time drug offenders up to 15 years in prison, have only driven up prison populations while having little influence on addiction, many officials now acknowledge.In New York, where existing drug laws are considered among the harshest and date to the early 1970s, the new strategy ''balances the need to crack down on drug kingpins with common sense proposals to address overly severe provisions of the Rockefeller-era drug laws,'' Pataki says.Instead of 15-years-to-life terms for first-time, non-violent offenders convicted of the most serious drug felonies, Pataki's plan calls for a minimum of slightly more than eight years to life.''Pataki has joined the ranks of state officials troubled that these mandatory sentences have failed to accomplish what they were intended to accomplish,'' says Laura Sager, executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. When the current drug laws were enacted in New York, the state prison population numbered more than 12,000. That number has increased to about 70,000 today, Pataki spokeswoman Caroline Quartararo says.About 21,000 of those inmates are there for drug-related convictions. About 70% of them were involved in non-violent offenses.''We want to keep the violent predators in prison longer and find treatment for the low-level, non-violent drug offenders,'' Quartararo says.Frank Carney, executive director of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, says proposed changes pending before the state Legislature ''represent a comprehensive re-structuring of the drug laws toward moderation.''The commission, as in New York, has proposed reducing mandatory sentences for non-violent first offenders from 15 years to a minimum of eight years. ''We found the sentences to be disproportionately long when compared to punishments for rape and armed robbery,'' Carney says.''Now there is a growing awareness that in the drug war there needs to be a greater emphasis on treatment and perhaps less on taking prisoners.''  Note: Mandatory Minimums are not working, many officials concede. Source: USA Today (US)Author: Kevin Johnson, USA Today Published: January 22, 2001 Page 3ACopyright: 2001 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Address: 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229Fax: (703) 247-3108Contact: editor usatoday.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Families Against Mandatory Minimums' Stance on Drug War Softening Bill Would Legalize Small Amounts of Pot Pot Smoking Should Not Be Prison Offense 

Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by military officer guy on January 22, 2001 at 18:04:47 PT
MD you're right...
i would also luv to see you wrong, but unfortunately i think you're right MD...what we need, like many people here have said, we need a "drug czar" that isn't a military get tough on drugs guy, but a doctor or sometype of health care person...but once again, what the hell do i know? the politicians have all the right answers, right?we can win this war...
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on January 22, 2001 at 12:06:29 PT:

Gone Tomorrow
"''We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem of drug abuse and drug-related crime.''This is an encouraging statement coming from Ed Jurith. However, under his watch as number 2 with McCaffrey, no concrete movement occurred to do anything about it. It will likely be about the only progressive thing we hear from him. His longevity on this job will be about 2 weeks until Dubya gets his act together to name McCollum or some other ideologue. Although I hope to be wrong, I figure the next Czar to be one to remember, and not in a positive light.
[ Post Comment ]

  Post Comment

Name:       Optional Password: 
Comment:   [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]

Link URL: 
Link Title: