A retired New York City judge who has sent hundreds of gang leaders to prison for life contends that little is accomplished by sending low-level drug leaders and addicts to jail. In a commentary published in the New York Daily News, Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder says, “Jail time only ensures they remain in the environment of crime and drugs that brought them before the court. Drug treatment, education, job training, housing and family counseling can reach the root of their problems.”
Snyder praises the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, which she says has a clinic to place defendants in programs that attempt to treat problems that have led to criminal behavior. The programs include drug treatment, youth counseling, job training, and domestic violence counseling.
Since the center’s opening in April 2000, the number of Red Hook residents who identify drugs as a major problem in the community has dropped 31 percent, Snyder says.
The New York legislature has been unable to agree on changes in drug laws, Snyder notes. The retired judge’s conclusion: “Convicted drug kingpins and violent predators should receive the longest sentences possible. Simultaneously, judges should be given greater sentencing discretion in lower-level cases and have the option of sending offenders into treatment. The reduction in prison costs would more than pay for a more effective approach that helps and educates drug addicts.”