Good news, bad news: New York’s drug law reform and collateral consequences

index,newyorjThe Vera Institute has issued a first-rate assessment of the effect of the Rockefeller drug law reforms in New York City.  See End of an Era?  The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City.   The report found that as a result of the reforms far more people were diverted out of the justice system and into treatment, thus avoiding conviction and the attendant collateral consequences.  On the other hand, for those not diverted, the report found that the repeal of mandatory minimums led prosecutors to look for other ways to leverage plea bargains, leading to more felony convictions and more severe collateral consequences than under the old laws.  Sentencing reformers in other jurisdictions should take note.

Read more

States “rethinking” collateral consequences? Vera Institute jumps the gun

sentencing-2The Vera Institute has published a new report that claims states are “rethinking” collateral consequences through enactment of laws intended to mitigate their impact.  The report (Relief in Sight? States Rethink the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction, 2009-2014) includes an excellent introduction to the issues, helpfully categorizes different types of relief measures, and makes a number of useful recommendations for future reform.

However, the report seems unduly sanguine in suggesting that wholesale dismantling of the regime of collateral penalties is just around the corner, or that reforms of the past five years augur a sea change in public attitudes.  Of greater practical concern, the report has methodological shortcomings that limit its usefulness as a research and advocacy tool.

Read more