Reforming and abolishing mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws lowers prison populations, saves taxpayers money, helps offenders get the rehabilitation they need, and doesn't increase crime.
Nearly 40 years after tough new drug laws led to an explosion in prison populations, New York state has dramatically reversed course, chalking up a 62 percent drop in people serving time for drug crimes today compared with 2000, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal analysis.
The steep decline — driven, experts said, by shifting attitudes toward drug offenders and lower crime — means that nearly 16,000 fewer minorities serve state time today than in 2000, groups that were hardest hit by the so-called war on drugs. Overall, the prison population declined 22 percent. ...
Similarly, the rolls of city jails dropped 16 percent since 2000, while county lockups statewide had a 15 percent hike, statistics show.
The decline in drug convicts means more of the type of inmate for which penitentiaries were constructed: violent offenders.
Today, the No. 1 most serious crime of sentenced inmates is second-degree murder, with just over 8,000 convicts — about the same as in 2000.
In 2000, the most common top crime for which inmates were incarcerated was third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance — with almost 10,000 people sentenced. That's now down to about 3,000.That's a message the whole country is starting to tune into, and the federal government shouldn't be the last to hop on this train.
"I would argue that the right people are being sentenced to prison," said Brian Fischer, New York state's prison commissioner. "Was prison the best alternative for drug abusers? Clearly it was not."