After today’s final passage of a partial rollback of New York State’s 36-year-old Rockefeller drug laws, the next states considering similar action include Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Nevada, says the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) . Under provisions of New York State’s annual budget bill being sent by the legislature to Gov. David Paterson, up to 1,500 inmates serving time on drug offenses will be able to apply for sentence reductions. As approved, the measure applies to a fairly small fraction of more than 10,000 New Yorkers incarcerated on drug offenses.
FAMM said it hoped that New York is just the latest in a series of states that are reconsidering tough sentencing laws. The group cited Michigan, which eliminated most of its mandatory minimum drug sentence laws in 1998 and 2003, Nevada, which has repealed some
mandatory sentencing enhancements, and Pennsylvania, where a state sentencing commission is studying the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences. “Contrary to the claims of those who oppose these reforms, removing the mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes is not ‘soft on crime,’ ” FAMM said. Still, this week’s U.S. Justice Department report that as of last year, state prison populations continued to rise, is an indication that most states have not pulled back on mandatory sentencing laws.