As Many States Reform Crime Laws, Little Action in NY

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Many state legislatures have enacted a variety of criminal justice reforms in recent years, but they have mostly stalled in New York, a state led by Democrats that outlawed the death penalty more than a decade ago and did away with the last of the Rockefeller drug laws, which mandated strict sentences for low-level drug offenses, in 2009, the New York Times reports. There has been hardly any justice reform legislation passed in Albany since the Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011. The last notable measures were a medical marijuana law in 2014 and a 2010 statute forcing New York City to stop maintaining a database of people who had been stopped by the police but were not found to have engaged in wrongdoing.

Even though crime rates are relatively low compared with years past, many people say in polls they believe that crime is worsening. Any effort to place new limits on law enforcement or to reduce punishments could prove perilous for politicians should a spike in crime occur. If New York lags other states in justice reform, it is likely because New York had something of a head start. It is often cited by some advocates as a model. The state has no death penalty, and it has slashed its prison population by 20,000 inmates from its high point in 1999, in large part because of the repeal of the Rockefeller laws. “We changed the paradigm long ago,” said Alphonso David, counsel to Cuomo. “The changes that other states are now making, we’ve already made.”

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