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26 September 2009

Executive Summary - The Geography of Punishment | Prison Policy Initiative

Since 1989, Massachusetts has required that certain drug offenses receive a mandatory minimum sentence of two years’ incarceration if the offense occurs within 1,000 feet of a school. The law has been amended twice, first to add 100-foot zones around parks and playgrounds and then to create 1,000-foot zones around accredited daycare centers and Head Start facilities. Originally intended to protect children from the adverse effects of drugs and drug-related activity, the law was part of a legislative package put forth by Governor Dukakis to “get drugs out of our schools by 1990.”[1]
The sentencing enhancement zones were intended to work as a geographic deterrent; identifying specific areas where children gather and driving drug offenders away from them with the threat of the enhanced penalty. However, the law does not require that the defendant be aware of the zone, and applies regardless of proximity to the protected location, whether school is in session, and whether children are present. Although unseen at the time, these fundamental flaws guaranteed that the law would not work.

Posted via email from Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition

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