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Pataki Proposes Reforms for Strict N.Y. Drug Laws

June 08, 2002|From Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. George Pataki released proposals Friday to change three-decade-old drug laws to allow more addicts to get treatment and to relax some mandatory sentences.

Pataki said in January that he wanted to ease the state's drug laws, calling them outdated and saying they didn't address the complexities of addiction.

The state's drug laws are among the nation's harshest and can bring mandatory life sentences for possession of relatively small amounts. In the 1970s, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller insisted on their adoption, when drugs plagued the cities.

Pataki's proposals were developed after discussions with prosecutors, prison reform advocates and others, said Chauncey Parker, his criminal justice services coordinator.

"We talked with many different people in an effort to truly reach compromise," Parker said Friday. Draft legislation was sent to Assembly members, the governor's office said.

The plan would expand categories of offenders who could be referred for drug treatment, give more leeway to judges when sentencing nonviolent offenders and reduce sentences in some cases.

Major traffickers or violent offenders would not be eligible for treatment and could get longer sentences.

The Republican-controlled state Senate endorsed Pataki's proposal as balancing the need for treatment of addicts with tougher penalties for hardened criminals.

An Assembly proposal backed by Democrats gives judges more sentencing discretion than the governor favors and would lessen the power of prosecutors to block addiction treatment for certain defendants.

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