FAMM Applauds Passage of Rockefeller Drug Law Reform
Changes Further "Smart on Crime" Sentencing Trend
WASHINGTON, D.C. Â Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a
national nonprofit organization dedicated to reforming mandatory minimum
sentencing laws, today applauds state leaders responsible for approving
legislation that substantially overhauls and reforms New York's Rockefeller
Drug Laws, once the toughest in the nation.
The agreement, included as part of the New York budget bill, will restore
judicial discretion in many drug cases, expand drug treatment and
alternatives to incarceration, and provide retroactive sentencing relief for
people serving prison time for low-level drug offenses. It also allows
approximately 1,500 people incarcerated for low-level nonviolent drug
offenses to apply for resentencing and increases penalties for "drug kingpins"
and adults who sell drugs to young people.
Deborah Fleischaker, director of state legislative affairs of FAMM, issued the
following statement in response to today's news:
"New York's decision to eliminate its draconian Rockefeller laws marks a step
toward policies that are both tough and smart on crime. Mandatory minimum
sentencing laws are a driving force in skyrocketing prison populations. Many
states and the federal government followed New York's lead and enacted
mandatory minimums in the 1970s and 1980s, believing these "one-size-fits-
all" sentences would dry up the drug supply and eliminate drug addiction.
Sadly, mandatory minimums in New York and elsewhere have the opposite
effect, filling our prisons with drug addicts instead of drug kingpins, and
causing the erosion of faith in the fairness of the criminal justice system
because of severe racial disparities caused by these laws.
Being tough on crime is not enough. States must figure out how to protect
public safety, without wasting thousands of lives and millions of dollars. By
repealing the Rockefeller drug laws, New York has just taken an enormous
step toward finding that balance.
New York has joined the growing wave of states that recognize the harm
caused by mandatory minimum sentencing. From Michigan's elimination of
most of its drug mandatory minimum laws, to Nevada's decision to repeal
mandatory sentencing enhancements, to Pennsylvania's decision to have its
Sentencing Commission study the effectiveness of mandatory minimum
sentences, states are waking to the idea that mandatory minimum sentences
lead to bloated budgets, fail to protect public safety, and are bad criminal
Contrary to the claims of those who oppose these reforms, removing the
mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes is not "soft on crime."
Politicians need to concern themselves with crafting smart criminal justice
policies, instead of settling for the expensive and unworkable status quo.
The New York reforms, though long overdue, are good news for New Yorkers
and the rest of the nation. A recent report by Pew Center on the States
shows why. One in 31 Americans are under some form of criminal justice
control Â in prison, on probation or on parole Â and one in 100 are in prison or
jail. The cost of this overreliance on corrections is staggering Â last year it
was the fastest expanding major segment of state budgets, and over the
past two decades, its growth as a share of state expenditures has been
second only to Medicaid. State corrections costs now top $50 billion annually
and consume one in every 15 discretionary dollars."
Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan
organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow
judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information on
FAMM, visit www.famm.org or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at