Tag criminal justice

New York Daily News: New York State Bill to Boost Prisoner Health Care to be Introduced Following Reports of Treatment That Led to 50 Deaths

By Reuven Blau, November 12

Assembly Member Richard Gottfried plans to create legislation to give the state Department of Health more power over prisoner medical treatment. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News)

Prisoner health care must be significantly improved and staffing levels should be regularly monitored, a state lawmaker said Monday following reports of horrific medical abuses that led to 50 deaths over the past five years.

State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) will introduce legislation to give the state Department of Health more oversight power over prisoner medical treatment. Currently, medical treatment is largely handled internally by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“People in prison and jail, sort of by definition, are not looked at kindly by most New Yorkers,” Gottfried said. “We also have to realize they are human beings. They are in our custody, and we have a constitutional obligation to protect their health, whether they have done wrong or not.”

The Daily News on Monday reported that a state medical review board concluded 50 prisoner deaths may have been prevented had they gotten better health care.

Commission of Correction review panels repeatedly criticized prison medical staff for failing to complete basic checkups and mental health screenings. In multiple cases, doctors and nurses totally discounted prisoner complaints until they were too serious, according to the death probes.

Gottfried’s proposed legislation will also require state officials to study health care staffing in prisons and issue a report on the issue twice each year.

The number of health care practitioners employed by the department shrank by 3%, according to DOCCS. Some doctors are in charge of 500 or more prisoners.

“I think today it is all too easy to ignore inadequate staffing in prisons and jails particularly relating to health care,” Gottfried said. “If DOCCS and the Health Department are required to study and report on it that gets us a lot closer to dealing responsibility with it.”

The legislation was introduced last year but failed to pass the Assembly after it got stuck in the Codes Committee. The bill would also have likely gotten voted down in the GOP-controlled State Senate.

Gottfried believes the Democratic takeover of the Senate will lead to its passing.

In 2009, Gottfried and former State Sen. Thomas Duane passed a similar measure requiring the Department of Health to “conduct annual reviews of HIV and Hepatitis C care” in correctional facilities. That bill, which was signed by former Gov. David Paterson, has been hailed as a success by prison advocates.

NY Times: It Wasn’t a Crime to Carry Marijuana. Until the Police Found a Loophole.

By Benjamin Mueller,  August 2

It was the 1970s, and marijuana raids and mass arrests had been sweeping college campuses and suburban concert venues in New York. The crackdown outraged parents. There was talk of ruined reputations and “Gestapo” police tactics.

State legislators in 1977 devised what they took to be a simple fix: a bill that made carrying small supplies of marijuana a ticket-worthy violation, not a crime. To win enough votes from Republicans, the authors carved out an exception that said it was still a crime to carry marijuana “open to public view.”

The bill’s backers thought the addition was harmless enough, given that people did not usually take out their stash in front of the police anyway. The era of mass arrests for carrying around marijuana seemed to be over.

City and State: The other argument for recreational pot

By Rebecca Lewis, June 3

The push to legalize marijuana for recreational use is gaining momentum in New York. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is pushing for it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he is open to it and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has concluded that it is inevitable.

Much of this drive appears to come from a social justice campaign to end racial disparities in arrests for marijuana offenses. Nixon made that clear in her campaign video. De Blasio’s new position, which included a demand that the NYPD stop making arrests for smoking marijuana in public, came after reports of enforcement disproportionately affecting black and Latino residents.

But changes could remove or ease restrictions on medical marijuana in New York and might even help to curb the state’s opioid epidemic.

New York has a medical marijuana program, but it is more restrictive than in other states. For instance, a person must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition. While that list was recently expanded to include post-traumatic stress disorder, a patient must still have a “severe, debilitating or life-threatening” condition, which leaves out many others who may benefit from medical marijuana.

City and State: Joint effort: Where key players stand on legalizing recreational marijuana in New York

By Grace Seegers, April 20

Recreational marijuana has recently been high on the list of priorities for New York politicians. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has made legalization an important part of her campaign, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s opinions seem to be evolving. The Republican gubernatorial candidates, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and state Sen. John DeFrancisco, did not return requests for comment on their positions on recreational marijuana, although DeFrancisco did vote against the bill which legalized medical marijuana in New York in 2014.

Meanwhile, legislation is under consideration in the state Legislature that would legalize recreational marijuana, although it faces stiff opposition. In honor of 4/20, here is an in the weed(s) look at the politicians who are blazing the trail for legalizing recreational marijuana in New York, and the ones who are harshing the mellow.

SUPPORTERS

Assemblyman Dick Gottfried & State Sen. Liz Krueger

The long-time chairman of the Assembly Health Committee is a staunch advocate of making marijuana more accessible. He helped to write the law which legalized medical marijuana in the state for a narrow set of conditions and does not allow patients to smoke it but imbibe through other means, but has criticized it for being too restrictive. He has introduced legislation to allow people to smoke marijuana and to loosen the restrictions on which afflictions qualify for medical marijuana use. Gottfried is also an Assembly sponsor of the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act. This bill would legalize marijuana for adults over 21, which Gottfried has said is “long overdue” in New York.

Krueger is also an advocate of legalizing recreational marijuana. She is the Senate sponsor of the Taxation and Regulation Act, which has previously stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate. Krueger’s position is that prohibition of recreational marijuana “disproportionately affects communities of color and wastes valuable law enforcement resources.”

Daily News: Assembly members demand Manhattan DA reverse policy letting NYPD prosecute activists’ summons cases

By Shayna Jacobs, 3/6/18

Seven lawmakers are pushing for the Manhattan district attorney to withdraw from a controversial policy in which the NYPD was given authority to prosecute activists in summons cases, the Daily News has learned.

Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) and colleagues are urging DA Cy Vance Jr. to rescind his delegation of violations to the NYPD’s Legal Bureau — a policy that allows department lawyers to play prosecutor in summons court.

The collective, in a sharply worded letter to be delivered Tuesday, is asking Vance to “rescind” the permission he gave to the department in a February 2016 agreement.

It is the subject of a lawsuit following the 2016 protest arrests of two Black Lives Matter activists.

The police department sought the access to the low-level court proceedings — that are not even usually handled by a prosecutor — as a way to try to minimize potential future exposure in lawsuits, The News previously reported.

Vance has “made himself and his office into an appendage for insulating the NYPD from civil liability,” Quart charged Monday.

The letter is endorsed by assembly members Inez Dickens, Daniel O’Donnell, Rebecca Seawright, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Gottfried; Sen. Liz Krueger and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera.