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Editorial: Rewrite drug laws

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Brown is correct when he says...

We are disappointed to learn that Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has joined prosecutors across the state in trying to block the efforts of Governor Pataki and others to soften the state’s draconian drug laws.

Brown is correct when he says “vigorous enforcement of our drug laws has played a significant role in the dramatic reduction in crime – particularly violent crime – in our city.” But he must also understand that the Rockefeller Drug Laws are excessive and that the cost of enforcing these laws has been enormous.

Although the number of people in New York’s prison system has declined this year for the first time in decades, it remains a fact that thousands of young men from the minority communities of New York will waste the better part of their lives as residents of the penal system. In fact, if New York City could find a way of dramatically reducing the number of men sent to prison, the economies of a number of small upstate towns would collapse overnight.

Virtually everyone in the criminal justice system – prosecutors not included, realizes that the Rockefeller Dug laws are both excessively harsh and inequitable. It is far more effective to require the first-time drug offender to take part in mandatory treatment with the threat of imprisonment than to lock that person ina prison.

Although mandatory sentencing appeals to the masses, it takes away discretion from judges, who are not free to consider mitigating circumstances.

It is a sad and disturbing fact that a young black man is far more likely to be in prison, on probation or on parole than he is to go to college. This is doubly true for young men with a father or older sibling in the prison system.

This in no way means that Brown should not be tough on criminals. Far from it. Violent felons, gang leaders and drug kingpins must know that they face the threat of long prison sentences. At the same time, society must do everything in its power to keep the first-time offender from becoming a career criminal.

It is sheer fallacy to pretend that the Rockefeller Drug laws deserve even part of the credit for the decrease in violent crime in New York City. For most of the time that these laws have been in place, drug-related crime continued to soar. The decline in crime was accomplished through aggressive law enforcement and an enlightened approach to treatment.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws were created out of panic when lawmakers saw the devastation created by the crackepidemic. Now the panic is over. The time has come to reexamine the state’sdrug laws before more damage is done.

Slow in Willets Pt.

There is an impending sense of doom in the salvage yards of Willets Point. It has long been rumored that the city sees this area adjacent to Shea Stadium as underutilized and is planning to condemn the properties there in an effort to force the auto-salvage businessesto relocate.

Although it is true that this area has unrealized potential, at least two concerns must be addressed before any decision is made. First, the city must demonstrate that there is a reasonable expectation that it can attract light manufacturing, retail and high-tech industry to the area. Second and more important, the dealers must be fairlycompensated and offered relocation to an area with equal potential.

We’d like to see Willets Pointreach its full potential, but only if it can be done fairly.

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