Sentencing Commission Wants Major Changes

The New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform has issued a preliminary report outlined several major recommendations to improve the state’s current sentencing structure.  The full report is here. It has been more than 40 years since New York’s sentencing laws have undergone a comprehensive review.

Some of the major recommendations include: 

  • Abandoning New York’s indeterminate sentencing system and creating new determinate sentences for more than 200 non-violent felonies.
  • Modifying New York’s sentencing statutes to expressly permit a court to sentence certain non-violent drug-addicted felony offenders to community-based treatment in lieu of state prison when the judge, prosecutor and defendant all agree that this is a just outcome.
  • Examining the broader use of “graduated sanctions” – such as curfews, home confinement, electronic monitoring and re-entry courts for certain offenders under parole supervision who violate one or more conditions of parole but commit no new crime.
  • Enacting new laws, and better enforcing existing statutes, to further protect victims of crime and enhance their right to have a meaningful voice in the criminal justice process.
  • Expanding prison-based educational and vocational training, enhancing employment and housing opportunities and utilizing other cost-effective measures designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
  • Establishing a permanent sentencing commission to serve as an advisory body to the legislative and executive branches.

The Commission also stressed that New York state has achieved dramatic decreases in crime. A recent report from the FBI shows that New York is the safest large state in the nation and the fifth safest overall. Additionally, New York is the only large state to see a consistent decrease in crime, offender recidivism and prison population over the last several years.

Governor Spitzer established the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform in March, 2007 to conduct a comprehensive review of New York’s current sentencing structure and sentencing practices.

The Commission will release its final recommendations and report next year, incorporating feedback from future public hearings. Keep eyes and ears open for them. There’s plenty to talk about.

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