Reforming Drug Free Zone Laws
Date:  12-30-2013

Law targets poor and people of color in big cities, often ignoring white suburbanites and university students
In every state in America, drug-free zones have been established. A drug-free zones is an area where penalties are increased if a person is arrested for selling drugs in that designated space.

All the zones include areas around schools, and, depending on the state, can include day care centers, housing projects, public gyms, public parks, movie theaters, libraries and churches.

In Connecticut A Better Way Foundation distributed maps of cities with drug-free zones. In New Haven, the map shows that the only area not affected by drug-free zone laws is the Yale Golf Course. In large cities such as New York, drug-free zones often overlap.

On December 20, 2013The Sentencing Project (SP) released a new policy briefing paper, “Drug-Free Zone Laws: An Overview of State Policies.” The paper includes efforts that Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Indiana have taken to reform drug free Zone laws, as well as a state-by-state guide to these laws.

Highlights from “Drug-Free Zone Laws: An Overview of State Policies” include:

  • “…in the sentencing schemes of several states defendants may face two distinct penalties for a single offense.

  • “…the laws are frequently drafted so broadly that they result in enhanced penalties for drug offenses that are a substantial distance from a school, that do not involve school children in the offense, or take place outside of school hours. In Alabama, for example, a drug sale that takes place as much as three miles from a school, college, or public housing project is subject to a mandatory five-year prison term.

  • “…because protected areas are clustered within urban, high-density population areas, the zones disproportionately affect people of color and economically disadvantaged citizens.”

    Drug-Free Zone Laws examines what reform measures Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and South Carolina have put in place, or are attempting to put in place.
  • Click here to read more.