The enactment of the 2009 drug law reform was aimed at compensating for the drawbacks of the Rockefeller drug laws and enhancing the effectiveness of the current legislation for solving the problem of the illegal drug trade and addiction. This paper will discuss the evaluation framework and the main assessment criteria which need to be taken into consideration for evaluating the effectiveness of the 2009 drug law reform for achieving its main goals and objectives.
Regardless of the growing recognition of the obsoleteness of the Rockefeller drug laws and their inappropriateness for solving the problem of illegal drug trade, the effectiveness of the measures which were taken under the Drug Law Reform of 2009 should be evaluated critically for determining possible deficits and defining the opportunities for further improvements. To view the effects of the reform in its full context, serious consideration should be given to the application of the new regulations to the legal, economic and social dimensions. Thus, the evaluation framework for the Rockefeller drug law reform consists of the three main components, including the legal, economical and social implications.
The main goal of all anti-drug policies is to reduce the drug recidivism and addiction. Acknowledging the fact that draconian Rockefeller laws resulted only in the enormous growth of the inmate population and consequently the increased costs on prisons, the reform was intended to change the existing course and implement more appropriate measures for achieving the main goal.
Taking into account the fact that under Rockefeller legislation, the main part of the incarcerated population consisted of individuals arrested for minor violations, including the storage of insignificant amount of drugs for their personal use only, it can be stated that these laws mostly did not affect the big players of the illegal drug trade and put the main emphasis upon the addicted individuals and small traders. Thus, the changes in the sentencing pattern were the major concern of the drug law reform.
The main objectives of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform of 2009 included the reduction of the costs and changes in the composition of the inmate population for placing more emphasis upon the big players of the drug trade business and getting to the roots of the problem. This shift from incarceration towards treatment of the addicted was to be achieved through the changes in the sentencing patterns, resentencing of the inmate population incarcerated before the enactment of the reform and imposing measures for affecting the main causes of the existing problem of illegal drug trade. The effectiveness of the implemented changes for achieving these objectives and the main goal of the anti-war policy should be evaluated for assessing the success of the reform in general.
The main criteria to be included into the evaluation framework for the Rockefeller drug law reform of 2009 comprise the reduction of the costs spent on the imprisoned population, the changes taking place in the amount and composition of the incarcerated population, the number of successful operations aimed at incarcerating big players and the rates of drug recidivism in general. Thus, the main measurements that should be performed for evaluating the effectiveness of the drug law reform of 2009 include the effects of new sentencing patterns and resentencing of certain groups of prisoners who were incarcerated before the enactment of the reform upon the overall amount and composition of the inmate population with account of the expenses and effectiveness for settling the problems of the illegal drug trade and addiction rates.
The main difficulty with applying the above-mentioned evaluation framework to the major effects of the Rockefeller Drug Law reform of 2009 is the lack of time lag after the enactment of actual reform. In other words, the long-term consequences of the changes in the current drug legislation cannot be clearly understood yet, while the short-term effects can lack proper level of reliability.
However, taking into account certain limitations of the reports concerning the short term consequences of the Drug Law reform enacted in 2009, this paper will provide a preliminary overview of the legislative changes through application of the evaluation framework to the available data on the changes in the amounts and composition of the inmate population incarcerated for certain types of drug violations versus those who were involved into the rehabilitation programs.
According to the data of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Annual Report, 30,775 inmates were involved into the drug education programs as compared to 23,230 2008 (The Federal Bureau of Prisons Annual Report on Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Fiscal Year 2009).
The imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders is ineffective for ensuring the public safety through appears to be rather expensive as compared to its alternatives. “One year of incarceration costs on average $ 23,876 compared to one year of parole at $4,000” (Justice Policy Institute 2010). Taking into account the fact that education and rehabilitation programs are much more cost-effective than imprisonment strategies, it can be stated that smart investments into the rehabilitation programs as prescribed by the 2009 drug law reforms instead of harsh measures of imprisonment allowed the states to reduce the costs spent on the incarcerated population.
Thus, softening the harsh Rockefeller drug laws through the enforcement of the drug law reforms had positive economical implications in the form of the reduced expenses on the incarceration measures and shift of the emphasis towards the improvement of the parole programs. Moreover, the increased involvement of the non-violent drug offenders into the drug education programs had also positive social implications because it improved their chances for reentering the community and overcoming the difficulties with finding a job instead of becoming a repeated offender. Thus, the changes in the current drug legislation enforced after the enactment of the drug law reform of 2009 had positive effects upon the economic and social dimensions.
The changes in the sentencing patterns along with resentencing of the inmates who have been incarcerated before the enactment of the reform resulted in the overall decrease of the incarcerated population and the changes in its composition. Eliminating the mandatory minimum imprisonment for the first-time non-violent offenses and even certain categories of the second-time offenses, the reform allowed 1,000 people to avoid the jail, while more than 300 prisoners who were incarcerated for the non-violent offenses were resentenced (Walder 2010).
According to the report of 2010, within only one year after the enactment of the reform, 700 offenders were enrolled into the judicial programs though while under the Rockefeller laws, these individuals would have been sentenced to prison (Byrne, 2010). Thus, according to the preliminary estimates, the drug law reform had positive social and economic implications.
Along with the benefits of the drug law reform, certain difficulties deserving consideration occurred after its enactment. Thus, resentencing of the non-violent offenders who have been imprisoned before the enactment of the reform and enrollment of the new offenders into the state programs escalated the load of the state courts and juries. Moreover, there are claims that the abandonment of harsh measures can increase violent crimes (Walder 2010). Still, the preliminary accounts of the drug reform effects do not show any signs of the increase of the offenses rates though as it has been mentioned previously, larger time lag is required for evaluating the long-term effects of the legislative reform.
The application of the evaluation framework to the preliminary data on the effects of the 2009 drug law reform has demonstrated that the legislative changes were effective for achieving the short-term objectives of the drug policies though it is too early to judge whether it will be successful in achieving the main goal of solving the problems of illegal drug trade and addiction. Thus, changing the sentencing patterns and the state investment strategies, the drug law reform eliminates the harsh and ineffective Rockefeller measures and their negative implications.
Still, it should be noted that though enrollment of the non-violent drug offenders into the drug education programs is much more cost-effective than incarceration and has positive impact upon their rehabilitation, these changes still do not affect the main issue of the illegal drug trade. In general, the current drug legislation is only partially effective. The shift from the punishment towards treatment of the addicted individuals is the main benefit of the 2009 drug law reform, while further improvements and effective measures need to be taken for developing programs for affecting the main underlying causes of the drug epidemics.
In general, after the application of the evaluation framework to the policy under consideration, it can be concluded that the 2009 drug law reform has positive economic and social implications, but further improvements are needed for achieving the main goal of this policy.
Byrne, S. (2010). Preliminary impact of 2009 drug law reform. Division of Criminal Justice Services. Web.
Justice Policy Institute. (2010). For immediate release: How to safely reduce prison populations and support people returning to their communities. Web.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons Annual Report on Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Fiscal Year 2009. Report to the Judiciary Committee United States Congress. (2010). Web.
Walder, N. (2010). NY reform saved 1 000 drug offenders from prison in first year, report says. New York Law Journal.