"Reducing the zones would have our children pass through a (phalanx) of drug dealers every day," said (Trenton) 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.'"
Yep! That's it! Legislators want drug dealers to have an easier time. That's the reason they want to reduce the size of the drug-free school zones and increase the penalties! Because our legislators just love the drug dealers!!
Or, it could be that the law targets minorities in our cities (where nearly every street is in a zone), unfairly chokes our prisons with non-violent offenders who could go to rehab, and hits offenders with two punishments for the same crime. Truly, if you think the penalty zone has restricted the amount of drug dealing in our cities, you had better check your facts.
At least some more logical minds had a few reasonable things to say:
"The Legislature is trying to address discriminatory practices," said Trenton board member T. Missy Balmir, referring to the study. "I think we need to be careful before we take a stand on this issue. I would like more information on how our city is truly affected by drug-free zones."
According to the commission, 96 percent of people jailed for dealing drugs within the zones are black or Hispanic. The commission argued two years ago that drug- free zones do not hinder drug sales near schools.
"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."
"I think that's an economic drain for the state of New Jersey, among issues of fairness," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson- Coleman, D-Ewing, who has introduced a bill to keep the drug-free zones at 1,000 feet while giving judges more discretion in sentencing.
"Was the person dealing drugs to students? Was school even in session when they were arrested?" Watson-Coleman said. "The judge should be able to determine the impact on society, the appropriate remedy, and then sentence accordingly."
Imagine that- a judge being able to determine impact and a remedy. Um, dare I say?- to judge. Then maybe clearer-thinking heads will prevail.
No one is saying drug dealing is a good thing. What is being said is that it's time to revisit a failed drug policy- one of many in our country. Kudos to the legislators and school board members who took the time to find out the facts about the effectiveness of these policies. Hopefully they can come up with a more effective and maybe more logical plan of attack on those who would prey on our children.