In 2004, New York enacted the Drug Law Reform Act (DLRA), thus reforming the Rockefeller Laws, some of the most punitive drug laws in the US. At the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, it was noted that the Legal Aid Society released a report yesterday regarding the effectiveness of the DLRA., in addition to a summary of the report.
The main impact of the new law was to reduce the longest sentences imposed for drug possession and to increase the weight of the drug that would trigger the longer sentences. The new law also allowed those currently incarcerated and serving the longest sentences to seek re-sentencing under the new standards.
In a New York Times article regarding the Legal Aid findings, it was reported that thus far, "only 142 prisoners - about 30 percent of those originally eligible for new sentences under the revised law - have been freed." According to the Legal Aid report, one of the primary reasons for this low rate is that DAs are opposing re-sentencing requests and, in some cases, seeking the imposition of longer prison terms.
It would appear that the DLRA is not serving its intended purpose of remedying the effects of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, in part because the DA's offices are not acting within the spirit of the law. I believe that more reform is necessary and agree with the following recommendations from the Legal Aid summary:
The Legislature should:
1) Let the judge, not just the District Attorney, decide who gets into treatment,
2) Increase funding for drug treatment programs,
3) Drop low level street sales out of the “B” felony category, and
4) Allow those serving long “B” felony sentences to apply for re-sentencing.