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Drug and Alcohol Findings. (2012) Effectiveness Bank Bulletin [Sentencing]. Drug and Alcohol Findings. Effectiveness Bank Bulletin, 6 Nove

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Drug law resentencing: saving tax dollars with minimal community risk.
Gibney W., Davidson T. New York, USA: The Legal Aid Society, 2010.

In 1973, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller introduced drug law sanctions condemning relatively minor offenders to up to life in prison. In the mid-2000s the prisoners were allowed to petition for release. Very few were re-imprisoned due to new offences, suggesting the original sentences were usually not needed to protect the community from drug crime.

Summary This paragraph establishing the background to the featured report derives from other documents. The laws enacted in 1973 in New York by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws required extremely long prison terms for possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs, including mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life for possession of just four ounces of illegal drugs, about the same as for some forms of murder. The penalties applied even to first time, non-violent drug offenders. The laws drove an unprecedented explosion of the prison population and became the national model for being 'tough on drugs'. Many states enacted their own versions. Nationally too, in the 1980s the US Congress agreed long mandatory minimums for drug offences.

The Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Act of 2009 was the third of a series of reforms allowing some serving sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws to apply to be re-sentenced in accordance with new sentencing frameworks generally imposing shorter sentences. The first was enacted in 2004, replacing the old 'indeterminate' sentences featuring long minimum and maximum terms with shorter, flat 'determinate' sentences. People sentenced as A-I felons under the old law could apply to be re-sentenced in accordance with the new framework. At the time, 473 were considered eligible to apply. In 2005, a more modest reform was enacted which allowed some people (estimated at around 550) serving sentences for the next most severe level of drug convictions, the A-II felonies, to apply for re-sentencing.

In order to assess the strength and validity of objections to the third round of reforms, this study reviewed the recidivism record of offenders released in the first two rounds. In September 2009 the analysts obtained a list of people resentenced and released under the terms of the 2004 (279 people) and 2005 (297 people) reforms. These were checked against the records of the New York State Department of Correctional Services to determine whether each had ever been re-imprisoned.


Item Type:Evidence resource
Publication Type:Review
Drug Type:Alcohol or other drugs in general
Intervention Type:Crime prevention
Source:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Date:6 November 2012
Publisher:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Corporate Creators:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Volume:6 Nove
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Crime prevention
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system
T Demographic characteristics > Offender
MM-MO Crime and law > Criminal penalty
T Demographic characteristics > Prison Inmate (prisoner)
VA Geographic area > United States

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