State Net Criminal Law Update: Governors Patrick (Mass.), Cuomo (N.Y.) Unveil New Anti-Heroin Plans

State Net Criminal Law Update: Governors Patrick (Mass.), Cuomo (N.Y.) Unveil New Anti-Heroin Plans

PATRICK, CUOMO UNVEIL NEW ANTI-HEROIN PLANS: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, unveiled wide-ranging new plans last week to address their states' rapidly growing heroin and prescription opiate abuse problems.

The $20 million proposal Patrick released last Tuesday would include creating more treatment centers, with at least one slated for rural Franklin Country, which currently does not have one, and others to specifically target the Bay State's Hispanic population and single parents with children. The plan would also require private insurers to cover a minimum level of addiction treatment and create a statewide database that would provide a real time inventory of available beds in addiction treatment facilities.

"These actions will help enhance our network of treatment and recovery services to help communities and families struggling with addiction," Patrick said in announcing the plan.

He is also working to coordinate his state's efforts with the other five New England governors, setting up a summit meeting this Tuesday at Brandeis University. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, all Democrats, have all confirmed they will attend. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, the lone Republican in the group, declined, citing a previous commitment.

Lawmakers must approve most of the proposal before it can be implemented.

Gov. Cuomo's plan, which does not need legislative approval, assigns an additional 100 officers to anti-narcotics units around the Empire State and provides all first responders — from police to firefighters and EMTs — with the anti-overdose drug Naloxone and the training to use it. It also makes heroin and opioid awareness a part of every student orientation program at the State University of New York and City University of New York campuses.

"We have a problem, and we have a problem with heroin, and we are going to do something about it," Cuomo said. "And, what you hear today is a multi-pronged approach. We are going to deal with it on every level."

Combatting the rise in heroin and other opiate abuse has become a major focus this year of New York lawmakers. Last week, the Senate approved two dozen bills aimed at curtailing it, though it is unclear if the Assembly will take them up before it adjourns this week. (BOSTON GLOBE, NEW YORK TIMES, BANGOR DAILY NEWS, NEWSDAY, NEW YORK GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

BENTLEY PROPOSES PRISON OVERHAUL: Citing extreme overcrowding, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced a new initiative last week to thoroughly review and overhaul the Heart of Dixie prison system. Bentley said the system is at 190 percent of capacity, housing over 25,000 prisoners in facilities made to hold only 13,000. That has led to accusations from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program that the conditions are depriving prisoners of constitutionally-guaranteed physical and mental health care. It has also raised the possibility of the federal government taking control of the system, similar to what it has done in California.

The review, dubbed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, will be a joint effort carried out by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Department of Justice, with additional help and input from the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The groups will examine the system and work on possible changes. Earlier this year, lawmakers also created a new 24-member working group, the Prison Reform Task Force, to tackle the problem.

Nobody yet knows what changes might come, but it was clear last week that Bentley and prison officials think they could be in for a major fiscal hit. Andy Barbee, research manager for the CSG Justice Center, told those attending the Task Force's initial meeting that they need to consider all options, including building more prisons. But getting the population down to even 130 percent of capacity via that route alone would mean building four new 1,500-bed prisons at a cost of $420 million. Operating costs for those facilities would be over $90 million a year.

State task force chair Sen. Cam Ward (R) said that's not a viable option, but noted that at least some new construction would have to be part of the solution. The alternatives, he said, will be even tougher to manage.

"If we don't solve our corrections overcrowding and the problems we have in corrections, then shame on us. Not because of our political careers but because of the impact on our children and grandchildren. It will bankrupt our General Fund budget," he said. (MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, ALABAMA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, BIRMINGHAM NEWS, AL.COM, WSFA.COM [MONTGOMERY])

GOVERNORS IN BRIEF: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to vacate an order that requires state officials to monitor each of almost 2,000 disabled prisoners currently held in county jails under his controversial prison realignment program. In his ruling, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the state was "not absolved of all of its responsibility for ADA obligations as to the parolees" solely because they are now held in county jails (LOS ANGELES TIMES).

CRIME & PUNISHMENT: The PENNSYLVANIA Senate approves SB 1261, a bill that moves injuring or killing a police dog from a third degree to a second degree felony. It heads to the House (PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES). • LOUISIANA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signs a quartet of bills aimed at curtailing human trafficking in the Pelican State: HB 1025, which creates the crime of unlawful purchase of commercial sexual activity and allows property seizure for certain human trafficking crimes; HB 569, which allows the creation of human trafficking courts by district courts; HB 1105, which requires that outpatient abortion facilities post the hotline number to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center; and HB 1262, which requires that women receive information on coerced abortions and human trafficking before undergoing elective abortions (ADVOCATE [BATON ROUGE]). • The NEW YORK Senate approves SB 5946A, so-called "revenge porn" legislation that makes it a crime to post nude or sexually explicit photos of someone to the Internet without their permission. It moves to the Assembly (LONG ISLAND EXCHANGE). • The PENNSYLVANIA House approves HB 2107, another revenge porn measure that makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It moves to the Senate (PENNLIVE.COM).

HEALTH & SCIENCE: The NEW YORK Senate approves a 23-bill package aimed at combatting heroin and opiate abuse in the Empire State. The bills include SB 7661, which clarifies that charter and public schools may possess and use the anti-overdose drug naloxone, and are granted civil and criminal immunity if they do so; SB 2949, which limits pain-killer prescriptions to no more than a 10-day supply; and SB 7652A, which allows parents to petition a court to have their minor children forced into drug abuse treatment. All the bills move to the Assembly (BUFFALO NEWS, WBTA1490.COM [BATAVIA]).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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