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June 2008
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Drug Free Zones

This article helps point out the absurdity of some people’s thinking when it comes to drug prohibition. Trenton is considering reducing the size of drug free school zones from 1,000 to 200 feet. Here’s the predictable idiotic response:

“Reducing the zones would have our children pass through a ( phalanx ) of drug dealers every day,” said school board Vice President Alexander Brown. “This would bring drug trafficking 800 feet closer to our schools. Some legislators believe the zones have placed a hardship on drug dealers. To me, I say ‘tough.'”

Of course, that’s a lot of absurd nonsense. Here is the actual story:

“If 96 percent of the people incarcerated under the drug-free zone law are black or Hispanic — groups that only make up 20 percent of our state’s population — it’s not a fair system,” said Roseanne Scotti, director of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey.
“Plus, there is no evidence that drug-free zones hinder drug sales,” Scotti said. “Basically, this law amounts to two different penalties being given for the same exact crime — the only differences between the two penalties are geography and race.”

Nobody actually knows where the zones are, so it isn’t a deterrent. It’s just a way of tacking on punishment for a certain class of people. It doesn’t in any way affect the availability of drugs to children. Because inner cities are so dense, the zones practically blanket the entire area — well of course that won’t stop drug sales, but it does mean that when black people are caught selling drugs, the DA can add on the zone charge.
And it certainly doesn’t make a zone “drug free.” You arrest one dealer and you’ve just put out an ad for a high-paying tax-free job for someone else (in a poor neighborhood — gee, you think anyone will bite?)
So the question is, do these officials know what they’re saying?

Officials across Mercer County said they would support changing the penalties for dealers caught in a drug-free zone, but reducing the zones to 200 feet would be disadvantageous to students.
Drug-free zones “should be everywhere,” said Lou Goldstein, spokesman for Princeton schools.
“To narrow it to 200 feet doesn’t make any sense,” Goldstein said. “In my personal opinion, the (legislators) are going in the wrong direction. They should be expanding the zones out as far as they can.” Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence, said she also favors expanding the zones.
“I think the entire city of Tren ton should be a drug-free zone, that’s my position,” Turner said. “Every municipality should be drug-free.”
Trenton City Council President Paul Pintella would also like to see drug-free zones expanded.
“I understand the challenge behind urban districts where schools are directly in the heart of neighborhoods; but we shouldn’t make exceptions for the people who live there,” Pintella said. “They shouldn’t be selling drugs in the first place, especially to our kids.”

I’ve written City Council President Pintella to ask him if drug trafficking is legal in Trenton except in drug free zones (which certainly seems to be his implication). I’ll let you know if I get a response.

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