Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Leader Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (all Democrats) reached an agreement behind closed doors to repeal much of what is left of the draconian drug laws that govern the state — ones that were passed in the seventies during a heroin epidemic in urban areas and are commonly called the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Championed by then-governor Nelson Rockefeller, the laws that remain carry high minimum sentences for first- and small-time offenders. Democrats have been trying to make these changes — which include giving judges more authority in sentencing by repealing the minimums, and developing treatment programs to replace incarceration for new offenders — for years now, but have been stopped in the past by Republicans controlling the State Senate. (Opponents to the change point out that, since drug-related crimes are on the decline, why change a policy that's working?) Under the change, some current convicts in prison would have the chance to appeal to have their prison sentences switched to treatment programs, which is great news for many serving now. We hear the pruno is much better at inpatient facilities than it is in Sing Sing.
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