New York to Roll Back Strict '70s Drug Laws
Gov., legislative leaders make deal to repel mandatory sentences
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2009 5:40 AM CDT
A rally yesterday outside New York Gov. David Paterson's office calls on him and legislative leaders to end the remaining Rockefeller-era drug laws.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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(Newser) – New York's governor and legislative leaders have agreed to repeal some of the nation's most draconian drug laws, the New York Times reports. The move to dismantle strict mandatory sentencing guidelines set down in 1973 means judges will have the option of sending many first-time nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail.

The "Rockefeller drug laws" have long been criticized for being overly harsh and for having a disproportionate effect on minorities. Gov. David Paterson has made reforming drug laws a priority, and the changes to the Rockefeller laws “reflect the governor’s core principle to focus on treatment rather than punishment to end the cycle of addiction," said a spokesman. The update would also allow some offenders currently serving time to apply to have their sentences commuted.