News Article

Massachusetts drug-free zone law ineffective, not evenly enforced

In Massachusetts, where 80 percent of those sentenced with the drug-free enhancement are ethnic and racial minorities, two different research efforts have determined that the laws are not working as intended. Researchers affiliated with the Boston University School of Public Health found that decisions by police and prosecutors to invoke the statute had little or nothing to do with keeping drugs away from schoolchildren. A research team at Northeastern University School of Law found disturbing patterns of racial disparity in arrests and charging practices.

The Massachusetts "school-zone" statute, enacted in 1989, establishes 1,000-foot penalty enhancement zones around schools and 100-foot zones around parks and playgrounds. Defendants convicted of distributing or possessing drugs with intent to distribute in a drug-free zone face a two-year mandatory minimum term that must be served on top of any penalty imposed for the underlying offense. The enhancement does not apply to simple drug possession charges. Read more »

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