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Natural Experiment in Reform: Analyzing Drug Policy Change In New York City - Abstract

NCJ Number
248581
Date Published
October 2014
Length
7 pages
Author(s)
Jim Parsons; Qing Wei; Joshua Rinaldi; Christian Henrichson; Talia Sandwick; Travis Wendel; Ernest Drucker; Michael Ostermann; Samuel DeWitt; Todd Clear
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
This project abstract summarizes a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded study that evaluated a series of recent landmark reforms made to New York State's drug laws that removed mandatory minimum sentences for defendants facing a range of felony drug and property charges, and created new options for diverting defendants to treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
Abstract
This study evaluated reforms to New York State's drug laws that removed mandatory minimum sentences for defendants facing a range of felony drug and property charges, and created new options for diverting defendants to treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The reforms were the culmination of efforts to address a set of laws that were perceived to be racially biased. The study used a combination of methods to provide an assessment of the reforms in New York City, including their impact on reoffending and cost implications, and provides empirical evidence and recommendations to inform decisions about sentencing options for drug offenders. The research team used administrative record data to track outcomes for felony drug and specified property cases with arrest and disposition dates during two equivalent pre- and post-reform time periods. Impact of the reforms on reoffending was assessed through comparing rearrest data for two equivalent pre- and post-reform groups, these results do not include arrests occurring outside the study profile, and two sets of cost-benefit analyses to explore cost implications. Findings include: 1) an increase in rates of diversion to treatment for defendants without prior violent felony convictions; 2) a decrease in diversion-eligible defendants sentenced to prison (29% to 19%); 3) a decline in the overall number of drug felony arrests; 4) reductions in the overall daily rearrest rate, the daily felony rearrest rate, and the time to first rearrest; 5) no impact on the daily misdemeanor rearrest rate; 6) variation in rates of diversion across court jurisdictions; 7) cost savings resulting from decreased rates of recidivism outweighed by an increase in costs resulting from residential treatment; and, 8) reductions in the racial disparity of incarceration for drug offenses.

Date Created: January 20, 2015