New Report: End of an Era? The Impact of Drug Law Reform in NYC

Today is the opening day of the 2015 Hawai`i Legislature. We always start every session with positive expectancy, thus we are hopeful that Hawai`i will right itself and discontinue being an outlier on justice issues. We know that justice advocates will work to make this happen because


This post will focus on a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice about the dramatic changes in NYC after the reform of their draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Will Hawai`i continue to push for more punitive laws or will we implement Justice Reinvestment and realize the full potential (increasing public safety and decreasing incarceration and crime) or will we continue on the failed and outrageously expensive punishment track?

Not-so-rocky road.
Six years after elements of the Rockefeller Drug Laws were eliminated, a new report reveals significant progress in New York State. Diversion of defendants into drug-treatment programs has increased; racial disparities and recidivism have decreased.

Just as the laws that Governor Rockefeller championed were a sign of his times—particularly fear of rising crime—the new laws are also iconic, emblematic  of the current sea change in public policy and opinion.

The impact of drug law reform in New York City was not only to divert more people but also to extend diversion to treatment to offenders with higher levels of need.

Jim Parsons • Qing Wei • Christian Henrichson • Ernest Drucker • Jennifer Trone
The Vera Institute of Justice

“In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment. To study the impact of these reforms, Vera partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University to examine the implementation of drug law reform and its impact on recidivism, racial disparities, and cost in New York City. The National Institute of Justice-funded study found that drug law reform, as it functioned in the city soon after the laws were passed, led to a 35 percent rise in the rate of diversion of eligible defendants to treatment. Although the use of diversion varied significantly among the city’s five boroughs, it was associated with reduced recidivism rates, and cut racial disparities in half.”

Now is the time for everyone to speak out for sanity, reason, and compassion. We MUST change our strategy in order to be able to fund things that actually BUILD STRONG AND VIBRANT COMMUNITIES rather than destroy human beings, families, and communities,



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