Drug law changes not being fully implemented, state pols say
Judges and prosecutors aren't paying enough attention to revamped drug laws meant to make them less "draconian," some state pols say.
The amendments, made in 2009, eliminated minimum jail sentences to drug offenders and let judges send nonviolent offenders for treatment instead.
But a report by state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, chairman of the committee on alcoholism and drug abuse, shows that more than half of substance abuse treatment providers haven't seen an increase in patients since the laws went into effect. Seven percent of providers surveyed had fewer patients.
“The way we get people the help they need isn’t by throwing them in jail,” Klein (D-Bronx) said, “It’s by getting them the treatment that they need so they don’t commit further crimes and they kick their habit.”
His report, released Sunday, also found communication and funding problems between treatment programs and the state’s criminal justice system.
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, who heads the health committee, echoed Klein’s concerns Sunday, as did several New Yorkers who had received treatment for abuse.
Todd Cooke, who was arrested for drug crimes last year, said he has been clean for eight months, thanks to treatment he’s been receiving under the law’s changes. He’s also getting training to become a drug counselor.
“Now, I’m a productive member of society,” said Cooke, 48. “I wish something like this was offered to me a long time ago, so I didn’t waste so many years.”
Klein said he'll hold hearings next month to address the report’s findings.