Deal On Drug Reform
March 27th, 2009

The three men in a room just announced they have reached a deal to reform the state’s harsh drug laws. They say the plan would roll back a great deal of mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases, giving judges sentencing discretion. It would also allocate more resources for drug treatment programs. The bill would also increase penalties for dealers who sell to children. Hard details on the plan have yet to be presented.

Talk of the deal began earlier this week but last night Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters talk of a deal was premature. The package of reforms will be voted on as part of the budget. Budget bills will likely be introduced this weekend, with a vote taking place early next week.

Legislators say that although the reforms require an initial investment in funding for treatment, the state will eventually save money by decreasing the number of incarcerated.

Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, said that, from what he has heard, the plan “falls short of full repeal” of the drug laws. He said the deal was less ambitious in repealing the laws than the bill passed by the Assembly earlier this year. According to Gangi the Assembly bill would have benefited 50-60 percent of currently incarcerated offenders had the deal been in place when they arrested. Under the new compromise plan only 35-40 percent would benefit. “The upside is it returns some discretion. The downside is it does not restore discretion for some low level drug offenders,” said Gangi.

Republicans have called the deal “the drug dealers protection act.”

By on March 27, 2009, 11:30 am
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