“Middle-of-the-road” legislation to reform New York’s Rockefeller-era drug laws has been proposed by Gov. David Paterson in an attempt to win bipartisan support for reforming mandatory-minimum drug sentences in the state, the New York Times reported March 11.
Democrats in the state Assembly have pushed their own reform measure but are fearful that Republicans will cast them as soft on crime if the bill passes.
Paterson’s bill would repeal many mandatory minimums and empower judges to send offenders to treatment rather than prison. (Prosecutors would no longer be able to veto such decisions, but could object if they feel that a particular offender should be in prison rather than treatment.)
However, the measure also placates opponents in the state Senate by deleting a retroactivity provision and a requirement that treatment and aftercare be mandatory for drug offenders in prison. Democrats hold a narrow 32-30 advantage in the state Senate, so building compromise is crucial to the bill’s passage.
Mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders would remain in place under the governor’s plan.
The Paterson bill calls for spending $50 million on treatment and drug courts.