By Jariah Moore
SUFFOLK, NY – Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney’s proposed solutions here to the opioid crisis in response to fentanyl overdoses are likely to inflict more harm than good, especially to New York’s Black and Brown communities, according to Justice Not Fear.
In “Suffolk County DA Proposes Tired War On Drugs Policies To Address Opioid Crisis,” Tierney has suggested expanding which crimes may have bail set.
According to Justice Not Fear, such a proposal would “allow judges to jail more people accused of selling synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”
Additionally, Justice Not Fear writes Tierney would like to implement a “dangerousness” standard when setting bail, and agrees with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to get rid of the least restrictive means standard currently used to set bail.
Finally, Justice Not Fear’s article states Tierney has proposed a “death by dealer” law, which would set financial penalties against drug dealers who sold drugs to a person who had later overdosed.
According to Justice Not Fear, defendants affected by the “death by dealer” law would likely have bail set against them.
JNF writes, “The United States’ 50-year war on drugs gave rise to the most incarcerated nation in the world, but it did not reduce the demand for drugs, instead increasing stigma, marginalization, and danger.”
Additionally, such proposals, JNF argues, would “exacerbate existing racial disparities in the criminal legal system,” as such measures would “disproportionately [affect] Black and Brown Americans, and [devastate] communities.”
Justice Not Fear adds those imprisoned for drug crimes are oftentimes suffering from drug addiction, and incarcerating people who are struggling with drug addiction may have disastrous consequences.
Justice Not Fear cites the case of Marvin Pines as an example of the effects of incarcerating drug dealers.
The article states that Pines recently died at Rikers Island after being found by an inmate unresponsive in a bathroom. JNF writes “Pines was sick for hours as staff failed to check in on him.”
Finally, Justice Not Fear notes Tierney’s “death by dealer” law does not make sense given that a dealer would not know that the drugs they are selling contain fentanyl.
The group cites Drug Policy Alliance on this matter: “fentanyl is often brought from outside the country and often added into heroin high up in the supply chain, even when done in the United States. By the time this supply makes it to the retail level, it may have been cut with even more adulterants, unbeknownst to people who use and sell it.”
Justice Not Fear concludes the opioid crisis will not be resolved by incarcerating more people for longer periods of time, writing, “Prosecutors like Tierney know this, but instead choose to exploit a devastating crisis to advocate for more New Yorkers in jail.”
Justice Not Fear advocates, instead, for an approach that focuses on the importation and manufacturing of drugs, and puts government resources into “Good Samaritan laws, expanded access to test strips and overdose-reversal medication, supervised used sites, and treatment resources.”