The rockefeller drug laws an historical overview
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The Rockefeller Drug Laws: An Historical Overview. Jennifer M. Ortiz New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing. Historical Context. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States was in the midst of an ever growing drug problem.

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The Rockefeller Drug Laws: An Historical Overview

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The rockefeller drug laws an historical overview

The Rockefeller Drug Laws:An Historical Overview

Jennifer M. Ortiz

New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing


Historical context

Historical Context

  • In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States was in the midst of an ever growing drug problem.

  • New York State initially responded by establishing rehabilitation programs such as the Methadone Maintenance Program. However, such programs did little to curb the drug problem.

  • Amidst growing pressure from the public, New York State politicians turned to the Criminal Justice System as a solution to the drug problem.

  • Sources:

  • Maggio, E.J. (2006). New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, Then and Now. NYSBA Journal, 78 (9): 30-34.

  • Gray, M. (2009). A Brief History of New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Time, Retrieved July 23rd, 2012 http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1888864,00.html


Original legislation

Original Legislation

  • In 1973, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller proposed and signed into law legislation that would come to be known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws (RDL).

  • The RDL consisted of three major provisions:

    • Mandatory and long indeterminate prison terms based on the weight of the narcotic

    • Restrictions on plea bargaining

    • Mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders.

Source: Walker, S. (2006). Sense and Non-Sense about Crime and Drugs. 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.


Sentencing

Sentencing

  • The RDL established three levels of drug offenders:

Source: Walker, S. (2006). Sense and Non-Sense about Crime and Drugs. 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.


Initial reforms

Initial Reforms

  • In 1979, facing growing criticism from both liberals and conservatives, the NYS legislature increased the weight of drugs required to trigger the 15-year-to-life sentence for both sale and possession of drugs.

  • The legislature also reduced penalties for marijuana possession

  • In 1988, in response to growing concerns over drug related violence, the legislature lowered the drug weight threshold for cocaine possession.

  • Sources:

  • Walker, S. (2006). Sense and Non-Sense about Crime and Drugs. 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.

  • Gray, M. (2009). A Brief History of New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Time, Retrieved July 23rd, 2012 http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1888864,00.html


Outcomes

Outcomes

  • The Rockefeller Drug Laws did not curb crime or drug use.

  • The Rockefeller Drug Laws had negative and disparate effects on prison populations

  • Sources:

  • Drucker, E. (2002). Population Impact of Mass Incarceration under New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws: An Analysis of Years of Life Lost. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 79 (3): 434-444.

  • Walker, S. (2006). Sense and Non-Sense about Crime and Drugs. 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.


Effects on prison population

Effects on Prison Population

  • Sources:

  • Prison Policy Initiative: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/importing/importing.html


Racial disparities

Racial Disparities

  • Offenders sentenced under the RDLs were disproportionately Black and Latino.


Modern reforms 2004

Modern Reforms (2004)

  • On December 7th, 2004 the NYS Legislature under then-Governor Pataki passed the first modern reform:

    • Sentences for drug crimes switched to a determinate sentencing model.

    • Established three levels of offenders: first felony offenders, second felony offenders with a prior non-violent felony conviction, and second felony offenders with a prior violent felony conviction.

    • Eliminated life sentences.

    • Doubled weight thresholds needed to trigger mandatory incarceration.

    • Allowed for resentencing for A-I Drug Felony offender sentenced before the reform.

    • Established 1/7th merit time for drug offenders in addition to their eligibility to earn 1/7th “good time” credit.

  • Sources:

  • Maggio, E.J. (2006). New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, Then and Now. NYSBA Journal, 78 (9): 30-34.

  • Rosenthal, A. (2005) A Guide to Rockefeller Drug Reform: Understanding the New Legislation. Retrieved on July 27th 2012 from the Justice Strategies website: http://www.communityalternatives.org/pdf/sentencing_guide.pdf


Modern reforms 2009

Modern Reforms (2009)

  • In April 2009, then-Governor David Paterson signed the most recent legislation reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws:

    • Removed mandatory prison terms for individuals convicted of first time B, C, D, & E drug felonies.

    • Removed mandatory prison sentences for individuals convicted of second time C, D, & E drug felonies.

    • Reduced penalties for certain offenders:

      • Reduced minimum penalty for second time Class B drug offenders with a prior non-violent record from 3 ½ years to 2 years.

      • Reduced minimum penalty for second time Class C drug offenders with a prior non-violent record from 2 years to 1 ½ years.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance. (2009). New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws: Explaining the Reforms of 2009. Retrieved July 27th, 2012 from the Drug Policy Alliance website:

http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/Explaining_the_RDL_reforms_of_2009_FINAL.pdf


Modern reforms 2009 cont

Modern Reforms (2009) Cont.

Source: Center for Community Alternatives (2009). 2009 Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Sentencing Chart. Retrieved August 2nd, 2012 from the Center for Community

Alternatives website: http://www.communityalternatives.org/pdf/Sentencing-Chart-for-Drug-Offenses-b&w-0810.pdf


Outcomes1

Outcomes


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