“Sentencing enhancement zones” fail to protect children and worsen racial disparity in incarceration

Prison Policy Initiative, 2014

Most states have laws that are intended to protect children by creating enhanced penalties for various crimes committed within a certain distance of schools. These laws sound like a common-sense approach, but our research has shown that these laws do not work, will not work and have serious negative effects.

In Connecticut, for example, certain drug offenses committed within 1,500 feet of schools are punished with a longer sentence. The oringinal intent behind the law was noble: protect children from harmful activity by creating an incentive for bad activity to move elsewhere. The flaw is that the designated distance is too large. To create a safety zone around schools, the area to be protected needs to be small enough to incentivize moving illegal activity elsewhere. Imposing a higher penalty over an entire city or state by blanketing it in overlapping enhancement zones nullifies the legislatures’ effort to give schools special protection. Simply put, when a legislature says that every place is special, no place is special.

Continue reading at prisonpolicy.org