Boston Is a Drug-Free Zone


The Drug War Chronicle notes that a leading Massachusetts judge this week condemned the state's "drug-free zone" law, which imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for drug possession within 1,000 feet of a school. Judge Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management, told A.P. that offenders sentenced under the law are overwhelmingly ethnic minorities because the law applies disproportionately to cities, where few areas are not near a school. In Boston, for example, "unless you're on the tarmac of Logan Airport, you're within 1,000 feet of a school." Furthermore, although the ostensible aim of the law is to protect children, it applies throughout the year and at all hours of the day, whether or not school is in session. The upshot is that children who aren't there are being protected from some schlemazel who happens to be caught walking down the street with a little pot in his pocket.

And who was the champion of this mindlessly draconian law when it was passed 15 years ago? Michael Dukakis, that card-carrying ACLU member.

NEXT: Smuggler's Blues

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  1. Can the cops still arrest people who are ethnic majority people?

  2. and can you also remember that Micky D. was lambasted by conservatives for being soft on crime?

  3. Surely everyone recognizes “drug-free zone” law is political grandstanding on the same order of this current “protesting” at the raising of the national debt ceiling.
    This is the sort of thing that turns folks off to politics, and, in turn, allows pols to get away with more and more.

  4. When I first moved to NYC, the Gun-Free Schools act — or whatever it was called — had been in the news. While not a gun owner, it struck me that I could never be one so long as I lived where I did.

    a) The church across the street ran a small school.
    b) There was a public school a block an a half away.

    Now, I’ve moved, and there are no schools within two blocks…

    … but there are three within three to four. 1,000 feet? Maybe not. But if I had a gun, I’d be violating the law if I went across the street to get coffee.

  5. Well kwais,

    My neighbor, and friend, is a cop here in Chicago land, studying for an advanced degree in law enforcement (and formally having worked for the county jail). He tells me that a “white” ethnic is only half as likely to be searched during a traffic stop. But, he does not conclude any kind of straight racism, because this outcome is the same regardless of the “ethnic” background of the individual.

    He actually suspects it is due to the attitude of judges, who are more likely to uphold the fourth amendment, and suppress evidence when it comes to “majority ethnic persons”. And once again, he does not think this is a matter of ethnic prejudice, but a “market effect”. Basically, majority ethnics (here in Illinois that would be descendants of eruopeans) are more likely to mount a successful challenge against a judge when it comes to ballot time.

    I don’t know if I agree with him, but the one thing I get out of talking to him is that even though clearly identifiable ethnic descendants of Africans are a minority, they are 3 times as likely to be searched (regardless of income, style of dress or behavior) and six times as likely to be penalized for the same crimes as counterparts in the ethnic majority. He is doing some really cutting edge data crunching and research, and I can’t wait till he finishes his project so I can get my hands on his data.

    In other words, yes they can still arrest members of the ethnic majority, but they seem to focus on members of the ethnic minority.

  6. if anybody remembers Spenser (#2, “god save the child”), there are lots of schools around.

    or how about danny vermin’s “88 magnum”: “it shoots through schools”.

  7. correction: From-“But, he does not conclude any kind of straight racism, because this outcome is the same regardless of the “ethnic” background of the individual.”
    to-But, he does not conclude any kind of straight racism, because this outcome is the same regardless of the “ethnic” background of the individual police official making the stop.”

  8. My gawd drf,

    I didn’t think anyone else saw that Johnny Dangerously. That was a great line though…

  9. Skeptikos,
    From my very limited experience with Sinincincinnati police statistics, they seem like the textbook case of garbage in, garbage out.
    My feeling is that the War on Drugs has evolved into being a tool for racists, even though most racists were too stupid to conceive of it that way in the beginning.

  10. hey skeptikos – it must be a chicago thing.

  11. DNL,
    I think the GFSA keeps states from getting federal “education” money if they don’t have policies punishing students for taking guns to schools. You may be thinking of the Gun Free School ZONES Act of 1990 that was declared unconstitutional in a rare display of sanity by the Supremes in U.S. v. Lopez, 1995. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Supremes have used the reasoning of Lopez in a single case since.

  12. In Boston, not only are you always within 1000 feet of a school, but getting to the school will require that you “bang a left.”

  13. “Boston Is a Drug-Free Zone”

    Yeah, right. My choice: High as a Kyte.

  14. KentInDC,

    Actually they have; see US v. Morrison (2000) where the SCOTUS struck down portions of the Violence Against Women Act for similar reasons. In Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (2001) the Supreme Court avoided the commerce clause issue by declaring that the Clean Water Act does not give the Corps authority to regulate the construction of a landfill on isolated small ponds used by migratory birds.

  15. Jason Bourne,
    Thanks. How could I forget the VAWA and Morrison – the woman who (unintentionally) started the process of dismantling the law was working as a bartender in Adams Morgan last I heard. I was not familiar with the other case.

  16. KentInDC,

    Well, a lot of folks were hoping that the Court in Solid Waste… would stick a dagger in the overly expanded Commerce Clause power; but the 5-4 majority balked at it (I guess they couldn’t get O’Connor to go along). So instead of dealing with the Commerce Clause issue, and creating a hopelessly fractured majority opinion, they looked at the CWA itself (at least that’s my guess on the issue).

  17. KentInDC,

    She never pursued a state court remedy, eh? Or rather, the state prosecutors didn’t?

  18. NJ has a similar law. In Glouceter County where I grew up the County Jail is less than 1000 feet from the Woodbury Middle School.

    Everyone once in a while you would read in the paper that some jailbird had somehow smuggled in some drugs, and now he was being hit with an even more severe penalty cause he had the drugs so close to the school.

  19. Jason Bourne,
    I don’t remember the procedural history. I just remember that she had a very distinctive last name and, one day while reading the WP a couple of years ago, saw her quoted on a subject totally unrelated to the case.

  20. KentInDC,

    How bizarre. Maybe by the time the VAWA case made it to the Supreme Court the statute of limitations had run. Plus there might also be an issue of double jeopary or maybe the state law wasn’t as remotely as prosecutor friendly as VAWA was (thus they wouldn’t have filed charges if their only “remedy” was to be found in state law).

  21. Jason Bourne,
    I guess it would be in bad taste for me to stop by the Madam’s Organ bar to thank her helping rid the country of bad law, huh?

  22. KentInDC,

    Ouch! 🙂

  23. Where’s joe? This topic would seem to be up his alley, seeing as how it’s in Boston.

  24. The point of these laws to was to increase penalty’s on dealers who are presumably selling to schoolkids. Or at least, that’s how it was sold, and what The Duke was aiming for when he supported the bill.

  25. Or at least, that’s how it was sold, and what The Duke was aiming for when he supported the bill.

    joe, when Satan wants to build a road, what sort of paving material does he list on the environmental impact statement and permit application? You should know this, you’re an urban planner ;->

  26. This is a test message. I tried to post in another thread earlier and got an error message. If those goes through then ignore it.

  27. Skeptikos?

    Johnny: “How’d you like to make a few extra bucks?”

    Old Cleaning Lady: “Both of you together, or one at a time?”

  28. “Boston Is a Drug-Free Zone”

    Ha! My choice, stay high as a mother fucking kite.

  29. Thoreau-
    Satan’s environmental paperwork! Ha! Oh my God, that’s fucking hilarious. If we were talking in person rather than writing on the Internet, you’d see me laughing so hard my eyes are watering.

    (Of course, it IS rather dry in here. Maybe I should turn on the humidifier.)

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