ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – A new proposal in Albany calls for a big change in the New York State prison system. Some state lawmakers want to eliminate the minimum sentencing laws entirely. While some officials praise the overhaul, others say it could be dangerous to public safety.
Democratic State Senator Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn says these laws stem from the Gov. Rockefeller Administration and their War on Drugs. He believes these laws are outdated.
“Ending mandatory minimums is really to me about justice. It is about giving the court the ability to look at each individual and to say whether or not incarceration is the right consequence,” Sen. Myrie told 18 News.
Republican Assemblyman Phil Palmesano says a change in the law would harm crime victims’ families.
“It seems like this is another proposal that really puts the ball in the favor of individuals who commit crimes at the expense of crime victims, their families, and public safety,” Assemb. Palmesano added.
The debate over judge discretion is not new to Albany, nor will it go away anytime soon. Bail and parole reform opponents believe judges should have jurisdiction to hold people behind bars. Minimum sentencing opponents say judges should have the discretion to decide the sentence based on individual circumstances.
Sen. Myrie says this is a racist system that needs to change in order to move the state forward.
“I do believe that the system has racist roots. I do believe that it has had a disparate impact on black and brown communities. We have to call it what it is,” Sen. Myrie continued.
Opponents of the proposal believe if a person commits a crime, they should remain in prison for the minimum sentence.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t be trying to help give people a second chance into rehabilitation, but they’re also has to be punishment for the crime that fits the crime,” Assemb. Palmesano.
Both Assemb. Palmesano and Sen. Myrie agree merit laws should be implemented to encourage rehabilitation. This proposal is not a formal bill, but it is up for debate and discussion in Albany.
“This person has been either convicted or they have pled guilty. We’re trying to determine what will be the consequence that actually looks to the past,” Sen. Myrie concluded.