Some good news:
Gov. David A. Paterson and New York legislative leaders have reached an agreement to dismantle much of what remains of the state’s strict 1970s-era drug laws, once among the toughest in the nation.
The deal would repeal many of the mandatory minimum prison sentences now in place for lower-level drug felons, giving judges the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of prison.
The plan would also expand drug treatment programs and widen the reach of drug courts at a cost of at least $50 million.
New York’s drug sentencing laws, imposed during a heroin epidemic that was devastating urban areas nearly four decades ago, helped spur a nationwide trend toward mandatory sentences in drug crimes. But as many other states moved to roll back the mandatory minimum sentences in recent years, New York kept its laws on the books, leaving prosecutors with the sole discretion of whether offenders could be sent to treatment.
“We’re putting judges in the position to determine sentences based on the facts of a case, and not on mandatory minimum sentences,” said Jeffrion L. Aubry, an assemblyman from Queens who has led the effort for repeal.
“To me, that is the restoration of justice.”
While good news, that still seems to me that they are trying to do things on the cheap. Depending on how many people have their sentences modified and the number of fewer people incarcerated, I can imagine a drug court and treatment programs blowing through 50 million in no time. There are people who can probably speak from a position of expertise on this issue (Mark Kleiman, I’m looking at you), but I imagine a substantial sum of money will be needed for rehab programs.