People arrested in New Jersey for drug offenses near schools no longer face mandatory prison sentences under a bill approved yesterday by the state legislature, the Bergen Record reports. The state has imposed mandatory prison terms of one to three years for people caught dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school since 1987.
“The mandatory minimum sentencing the zones require has effectively created two different sentences for the same crime, depending on where an individual lives,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “This is geographic discrimination at its most basic.” Supporters of the bill say those sentences have unnecessarily stuffed New Jersey prisons with nonviolent offenders who deserve probation or access to drug treatment. Almost 70 percent of the 6,720 drug offenders serving time in state prisons have mandatory minimum sentences.