Leave it to the few of our good buddies who have yet to be laid off at the New York Times to announce the death of the Rockefeller drug laws. Except that it has yet to happen. Ah, the devil is always in the details.
The New York Legislature finally seems poised to overturn the infamous Rockefeller drug laws. The impending change comes too late for the tens of thousands of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who wasted away in prison because of mandatory sentencing policies when they should have been given treatment and leniency. But after years of building support for reform, legislative leaders now have it within their power to make wholesale changes in this profoundly destructive law.
“Seems poised” isn’t exactly something make book on. “Seems poised” is the sort of description one uses when one wants desperately to believe something is true, but can’t quite get the voice out of one’s head that keeps muttering, “yeah, right, when pigs fly.” I guess they left that line out of the editorial.
The problem is that New York State had one of its beloved commissions review the Rocky Laws. The outcome wasn’t nearly as great as Shelly Silver hoped it would be:
The law has been especially disastrous for black and Latino offenders, who represent the overwhelming majority of those held in state prison for drug offenses. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, made just that point last week when he criticized a state commission that had been appointed to study the reform issue. The commission, which appears to have been dominated by prosecutors, called for more rational sentencing guidelines and allowing judges to send more offenders to treatment instead of prison. But it failed to get to the heart of the matter, which is a full restoration of judicial discretion.
Why does it surprise anyone that the Commission on Sentencing Reform “appears to have been dominated by prosecutors?” Every commission in New York that has ever dealt with a criminal law issue is dominated by prosecutors. Is this news? Is no one paying attention. Even when you put your Biglaw pretend criminal defense lawyer who was an AUSA last week on a commission, he’s still a prosecutor. You love your blue ribbon commissions, and that’s who you select. If you don’t like it, Shelly, put some real criminal defense lawyers on it instead of campaign contributors.
Before anybody gets too excited, the fact that New York State’s assembly and senate are controlled by the Democrats does not mean a thing. They are scared to death to appear soft on crime, and there’s barely a spine to be found in the bunch when all put together. Dems or Reps, they want only to be re-elected and won’t for a minute consider taking a chance of risking their seat to help “criminals”. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish and naive.
The only question now is whether they can sell this as a cost-saving method to the taxpayers of New York, making this into a positive for fiscal prudence rather than a negative for being a criminal-lover. If so, there’s a chance. But they still have the commission to deal with, which their opposition will shove in their faces to prove that the liberals will bring New York back to the days of a gunfight between drug dealers on every corner.
No, the Rockefeller Laws are not yet dead. Not by a long shot. They could be soon, if our politicians have the guts to do the job they’ve been sent to Albany to do, but what are the chances that will happen?