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NY Gov. Proposes Drug Law Changes

June 8, 2002

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

Pataki said in January he wanted to ease the state’s drug laws because they were outdated and didn’t address the complexities of addiction.

New York drug laws are among the nation’s harshest and can bring mandatory life sentences for possession of relatively small amounts. Gov. Nelson Rockefeller insisted on their adoption in the 1970s when drugs plagued inner-cities.

Pataki’s proposals were developed over months of discussion 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 discretion 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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