Legislators in some states are rethinking "drug-free school zones," where people arrested for drug offenses get extra-long sentences. Ostensibly aimed at protecting children, the zones cover most or all of the territory in many cities, typically are applied to drug dealing that involves only adults, and further skew the disproportionate racial impact of the war on drugs.
In New Haven, A.P. reports, "Yale University's golf course [is] the only large part of the city not encompassed in one of the overlapping zones." A December report from New Jersey's sentencing review commission "found that students were involved in only 2 percent of the cases it examined. It said drug-free zones around schools, parks and housing projects cover virtually all of some cities, and 96 percent of offenders jailed for zone violations were black or Hispanic." Minorities, who are especially likely to be arrested for drug dealing to begin with, are even more apt to be hit with enhanced sentences because drug-free zones cover a larger percentage of the territory in high-density urban neigborhoods than they do in the suburbs.
A new Justice Policy Institute report reaches similar conclusions. In response to such criticisms, legislators in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington state are considering bills that would narrow the drug-free zones, which typically cover locations within 1,000 feet of schools.