It is good Albany continues to look at reforming, not repealing, the Rockefeller drug laws, especially concerning nonâˆ’violent, minor drug violators — namely, users, not sellers.
I question whether removing the district attorney’s participation in the process will be fair to the people whose lives are affected by the culture of crime the drug trade operates in, particularly in poor and workingâˆ’class neighborhoods.
The district attorney is needed to temper the mercy judges may be inclined to offer. The judge focuses on the person before him or her, while the DA has in mind the lawâˆ’abiding people whose quality of life and safety are put in jeopardy by drug dealing.
Gov. David Patterson’s nuanced approach to the reform is commendable. It would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for firstâˆ’time, lowâˆ’level drug felonies, allowing for violators to be sent to rehabilitation programs instead of prison. The bill proposed by the governor would retain mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders, but with lower sentences than those in the Rockefeller laws.