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ALBANY – Governor David A. Paterson and legislative leaders said today they have agreed to dismantle the last vestiges of the Rockefeller Drug Laws by stressing treatment rather than incarceration for most nonviolent offenders. Mr. Paterson said the agreement will be included in the 2009-10 state budget to be voted on by state legislators within the next few weeks. “These policies have been ineffective,” Mr. Paterson said at a news conference today at the state Capitol. “They simply have not worked.” Advocates for the reforms said changes to the statutes in 2004, which removed life sentences for drug crimes and allowed resentencing for some offenders, did not go far enough. The new agreement would give judges the discretion to place nonviolent addicts convicted of first—and in some cases second—offenses in court-approved alcohol and substance abuse programs instead of prison, even if prosecutors object. Following the current drug-court model, judges would be expected to carefully monitor the progress of treatment. Judges would be empowered to send offenders to prison or to fashion some other punishment for those whose treatment regimen fails. Offenders facing charges for property theft and other nonviolent crimes that are deemed to have stemmed from their addictions would also be eligible for diversion under the agreement. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who appeared with the governor and lawmakers at today’s news conference, said the drug courts, the first of which were established 15 years ago, have been successful. “When judges have that discretion and oversee and monitor non-violent, addicted offenders, who have to choose between prison and rehabilitation through treatment, lives are saved and society benefits,” Chief Judge Lippman said. Senate Codes Committee Chairman Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan, said between $60 million and $80 million in federal stimulus funding would be used to bolster the additional treatment available to offender-addicts. Mr. Paterson said the state could justify using the stimulus money in that way because the enhanced use of treatment would create more economically productive citizens and fewer prison inmates. The agreement also calls for tougher penalties for drug kingpins and those who sell illegal drugs to children. @

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