This work, conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Justice, included researchers from Vera's Substance Use and Mental Health Program and Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Rutgers University. The research team:

  • described sentencing outcomes by analyzing administrative data on felony drug cases indicted before and after the reforms, and conducted case file reviews and interviewed judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to explore the factors influencing charging and sentencing decisions; 
  • compared recidivism outcomes for individuals charged with felony drug crimes before and after the reforms; and
  • conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the reforms.

The results can be found in End of an Era? The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City.

Why This Research Matters

In light of the current fiscal crisis, there is a nationwide drive to reduce incarceration and corrections costs without jeopardizing public safety. Increasingly, states are considering new ways to respond to people convicted of drug offenses, a largely non-violent group that constitutes a sizable minority of the incarcerated population. As policymakers grapple with sentencing options, there is a pressing need for empirical evidence to inform their decisions. SUMH contributed to this dialogue by documenting the impact of two different approaches to sentencing for drug offenses.

For more information, contact research director Jim Parsons