Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has called on Governor Kathy Hochul to pass tougher bail laws and longer imprisonment terms for individuals apprehended for dealing fentanyl. Tierney has claimed that fentanyl dealers are arrested for pushing the deadly drug but are easily released, walk from custody, and continue their drug trade. As per New York’s 2019 drug laws, only class A drug offenses are eligible for bail.
“In New York, we have loopholes a mile wide and drug dealers are taking advantage,” Tierney said in an interview with the NY Post. “Our criminal justice laws don’t focus enough on crime victims and the safety of the community.”
Tierney suggested ways to toughen laws to Governor Hochul. He suggested that bail and detention be added as punishments for Class B drug offenses. Additionally, Tierney called for longer jail sentences for fentanyl dealers whose drugs kill their users.
New York City, particularly Staten Island, is in the midst of a drug overdose crisis that is particularly fueled by fentanyl. The synthetic opioid is reportedly 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In 2021, fentanyl was the cause of 80% of the drug overdose deaths in the city.
According to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City, there are 8 drug overdose deaths a day in the city, which means every three hours a person in the city dies from an overdose. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in the 12 months up to July 2022, more than 2,800 people died from a drug overdose in New York City. The drug overdose scourge fueled by fentanyl has ruined lives, families, and communities.
Drug dealers typically cut their drugs with another narcotic to make them stronger. Fentanyl has become the go-to option when cutting drugs and considering how a very small dose of it can be deadly, it has created dire consequences.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan in January 2023.
“The effect of this drug and the loss that people have suffered because of fentanyl is tremendous and it’s really widespread,” Brennan said. “It just cuts across everything, age, demographic. And it’s just heartbreaking.”
Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo, who represents Staten Island, bemoaned the state of affairs regarding the drug overdoses.
“Fentanyl is the most lethal drug of our time. I would fully support legislation that would hold drug dealers accountable and keep them in jail,” he said, agreeing with DA Tierney’s call for more stringent legislation.
The drug crisis in New York City has been described as a health emergency by some. State Senator Peter Harckham said there is seemingly no effective solution to stop the tainted drugs from getting into the city, with the next best option being to help those who suffer overdoses.
“It’s not just New York City, it’s little communities like North Salem, New York. It’s every corner of the state; people who are using without near fatal implications in past years,” he said. “It’s a constant multi-point effort. It’s shoring up treatment and harm reduction treatment and getting more mental health treatment facilities up.”
The Adams Administration has shown a willingness to combat the crisis. Mayor Eric Adams announced a new holistic mental health plan on March 2nd that would also play a role in the fight against drug overdoses. The city will expand and improve overdose treatment and recovery facilities.
“As we continue to face the Opioid Crisis, what the nation needs is true harm reduction. Looking at the success of Overdose Prevention Centers in New York, Canada, and Europe, it is easy to see that decency works. We must lead with empathy, practice mercy, and provide safety to all of our neighbors if we wish to see an end to the countless lives lost to this epidemic,” said St. Anne’s Corner of Harm Reduction (SACHR) Founder and CEO Joyce Rivera.