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Governor Paterson Marks Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Milestone

Press Release

Date: Oct. 7, 2009
Issues: Drugs

Meets with Judges and Drug Court Graduates on Day that Judicial Diversion Goes Into Effect

Governor David A. Paterson today marked the start of the judicial diversion program, part of the Rockefeller Drug Law reform he signed into law last April. The legislation restores judicial discretion by eliminating mandatory minimums and greatly expands New York's existing drug courts and drug treatment programs. The Governor was joined by Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell in meeting with judges and drug court graduates at the Brooklyn Court House, where the State's first drug court began over a decade ago, to discuss the impact that the reforms will have.

"Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, we did not treat the people who were addicted; we locked them up under some of the nation's harshest sentences. Families were broken, money was wasted, and we continued to wrestle with a statewide drug problem," said Governor Paterson. "The reforms that take effect today address those problems. By returning judicial discretion to the courtroom, we are reuniting families and fighting criminal activity and addiction in our communities. This is a proud day for me and so many of my colleagues who have fought for so long to overhaul these laws and restore judicial discretion in narcotics cases."

Effective today, Article 216 of the State's Criminal Procedure Law -- titled Judicial Diversion Program for Certain Felony Offenders - gives superior criminal courts the option of allowing eligible defendants with a diagnosis of drug or alcohol dependence to participate in a comprehensive treatment program supervised by the courts. The law relieves new offenders from some of the old Rockefeller Drug Law's mandatory sentencing provisions and provides opportunities for resentencing to some offenders who remain incarcerated under the old laws.

Since the first drug court was first established in Brooklyn in June 1996, the program has seen 4,208 participants and 2,144 graduates. The court currently has 321 participants. There are 177 drugs courts operating in communities throughout the State and an additional 20 are in the planning stages.

The State has directed funds to support the implementation of the drug law reforms and related initiatives. Aside from enabling the State to implement the major aspects of drug law reform the funds will help to create or retain more than 400 new jobs or jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated.


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