Friday, September 16, 2016

"Drug free zones" a glimpse into the problems with the criminal justice system

The idea behind the “drug-free school zones” was to deter dealers at the height of a national crack cocaine epidemic from peddling drugs to children where they could be found most days, reported Stateline.
Now those laws are undergoing new scrutiny, as states revisit long sentences for drug crimes that have led to mass incarceration and as they face a new drug epidemic, this time opioid addiction.
Some states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky and Utah, are reducing the size of the drug-free zones as they seek to rid their prisons of so many nonviolent drug offenders with long sentences and as research indicates the zones sometimes fail to steer dealers away from schools.
But other states, such as Arkansas, Hawaii and Texas, are expanding the zones in response to the opioid crisis. They’re adding playgrounds, parks and other areas where children play and imposing heavy penalties for people caught with drugs there, sometimes even for small amounts.
The seemingly contradictory directions states are taking on drug-free zones points to the practical and political difficulties states are having. 
The question is what works?
States should be unified in what works and what doesn't.  There is enough research out there to make educated and informed decisions on criminal justice matter as important as sentence enhancements. Yet, states are going in different directions.  Do drug-free zones work in Hawaii and not in Utah?  
That seems silly.  But, maybe being tough on drugs works in Hawaii right know, but not in Utah.  That is more likely and no reason to enact legislation.
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