New York State’s Rockefeller drug-sentencing laws remain on the books after more than three decades. The Village Voice tells a tale of how the laws operate in practice today. Two Hamilton College student drug users turn in a cocaine dealer, giving the students light penalties and the dealer a 7-to-21 year prison term. Politicians again promised reform of the drug laws this year, but the legislative session ended last week with no action.
In New York, the Voice says, 98.5 percent of people convicted last year of a drug felony pleaded guilty rather than risk going to trial. Prosecutors determine the amount of time these people spend in prison by how they negotiate plea deals. Plea offers vary from one county to another. If the dealer in this case had been arrested in Manhattan, he likely would have received a shorter sentence. In Manhattan, the median prison term for first-time drug offenders convicted of a B felony is one to three years.