Online Program

A Natural Experiment in Reform: Analyzing Drug Law Change in New York City

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jim Parsons, MSc, Research Department, Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY
Qing Wei, PhD, Substance Use and Mental Health Program, Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY
Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, PhD, Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY
background: In 2009, New York State introduced a series of drug law reforms (DLR) that removed mandatory minimum sentences for a range of charges and created new options for diverting defendants to treatment as an alternative to incarceration (ATI). This study used a quasi-experimental design to examine the implementation of DLR in New York City, its impact on reoffending and cost implications. methods: Researchers used administrative records from multiple city and state criminal justice agencies to track treatment, cost and criminal justice outcomes for cases disposed during two equivalent time periods, pre and post-DLR (2008 and 2010). Propensity Score Matching was used to select comparable samples from these two periods, controlling for baseline differences in case and individual level characteristics. Researchers interviewed 35 legal professionals working in NYC courts and reviewed a sample of case files.  results: DLR was associated with a moderate increase in the use of treatment as an ATI. Diversion to treatment was associated with significant reductions in rearrest. While the reforms narrowed racial disparity, blacks and Hispanics arrested on drug felony charges post-DLR were significantly more likely to be imprisoned than whites. conclusions: While DLR was associated with a significant increase in rates of diversion, the overwhelming majority of defendants who met basic charge and criminal history eligibility criteria were not diverted to treatment. Though DLR has narrowed the longstanding racial disparity in rates of arrest and incarceration for drug offenses, Blacks and Hispanics were still more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the implementation of DLR in NYC and its impacts on reoffending. Describe the implications of DLR for racial disparities in rates of incarceration.

Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Drug Abuse Treatment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered