Sentencing

New Jersey Scraps Mandatory Minimums Tied to Drug-Free Zones

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Yesterday the New Jersey State Assembly passed a bill, already approved by the state Senate, that allows judges to waive heretofore mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenses committed in "drug-free zones." Under state law, such zones include any place within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 feet of a park, library, museum, or public housing project. Selling drugs (or possessing them with intent to sell) within that area triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of three years. The bill abolishing that rule, which Gov. Jon S. Corzine has promised to sign, follows years of lobbying by critics who argue that drug-free zones, aimed mainly at shielding children from drug dealers, arbitrarily increase the punishment for disproprtionately black and Hispanic defendants whose offenses have nothing to do with children. The zones are defined broadly enough to include most or all of many cities.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, at least 35 states, along with the federal government, have laws similar to New Jersey's. Ben Barlyn, who as executive director of the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing co-authored a 2006 report that was highly critical of drug-free zones, hopes the state legislature's action will get the reform ball rolling:

Drug-free zone laws, such as New Jersey's, have attracted widespread criticism from reformers, the judiciary and law enforcement officials alike as being ineffective and costly. From Utah to Illinois to Connecticut to Pennsylvania there has been movement toward reform. This change in New Jersey will perhaps provoke change in other states as well.

DPA and Families Against Mandatory Minimums have more here and here. Reason coverage of drug-free zones here.

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  1. Maybe Corzine can finally do one decent thing before he leaves office…

    1. I bookmarked your blog, thanks for sharing this very interesting post

  2. monday’s vote on MMJ is looking better & better after this news. i’m quite impressed with the fucktards in trenton for once.

  3. The mandatory minimum was one year (all of it) with a 3 or 4 back number. First time offenders in Camden County were getting a 4 with a 1 (NJ terminology). That means no Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), no Drug Court, and no Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). However, there is “automatic parole” at the end of the one year. These are programs that carry little or no jail time and stress treatment and rehabilitation. Programs which have been proven to work. Most all other Third Degree, non-violent offenses for first time offenders draws probation or County Jail time (364 days or less). The 1 year mandatory is State Prison time.

    The entire city of Camden fell into a “school zone” except for one small area. Well, of course, all the street level dealers set up their “sets” there. So, city officials placed an old school bus there and County prosecutors classified it as a school zone. No shit.

    Now, if Camden could get rid of the “Loitering in a Drug Zone” municipal offense which carries a minimum $500 fine and maximum 6 months jail time. But I doubt that they will. It generates too much money for the city to give it up.

    1. listen i live in gloucester nj a poor city nowadays but use to be a hard working blue collar city filled with great people and great families but everyone is startin to move bc nowadys drug addicts steal from houses, cars, local businesses as a way to obtain money for there drugs so dont say that drug addicts dont do anything wrong maybe if you smoke marijunia responsilbity but not a heroin addict or crack head comon you must be from washington twp where you dont see a drug addict walking the streets come to the city and you will have a different perspective bc all the suburb drug addicts walk the streets of gloucester either waiting for a bus to camden or walking to and from camden

  4. There should be no such thing as a “drug crime” in the first place. If someone uses drugs and is not harming anyone else, where’s the crime?

  5. SOFT ON CRIME! SOFT ON CRIME!

  6. If any state in the union should allow their citizens to do all the drugs they want, it is NJ. The state should even provide free drugs for their citizens in exchange for willingness to live in such a crap hole. Maybe I am not being fair to the state of NJ, I have not seen it all, but everytime I drive through there on my way to Manhattan from the south, I feel a strong urge to do massive amounts of hard drugs to ward off the gloom.

    1. Well, there’s your problem. You’ve only seen NJ from the Turnpike. I live in South Jersey, and every time I drive through Newark on the Turnpike it makes me want to puke. The thing about Jersey is it has a little bit of everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

      1. can we not bash Newark? it is in fact a shithole, but it is no where near as bad as it was in the nineties. if i’m gonna rag on any city it’s Camden.
        also – south jersey is full of rednecks and douchebags.

        1. You’ll get no argument from me about Camden. However, the biggest shithole in NJ is AC. Don’t let all those big shiny buildings fool you. And, please don’t tell me you actually live in Newark. I’d take the Rednecks of Fairton or the douchebags of Haddonfield any day over Newark. Some of my best friends are Rednecks and Douchebags.

          1. Anyone been to Montclair? Great food scene.

  7. This brings back fond memories of smoking the doobies back home in NJ. Aaaah.

  8. JERSEY FUCKING SUCKS!!!!!!!!!

    1. Fuck you, sir. Jersey is the land of libertarianism.

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