Connecticut legislators will consider a bill today that would reduce the size of drug-free school zones after a national report tagged them as unfair to cities and racially discriminatory, the Hartford Courant reports. Under Connecticut law, any drug activity is subject to stiffer criminal penalties if it takes place within 1,500 feet of a public school, housing project, or day-care center. The law, which was drafted in the late 1980s and mirrors laws in several other states, was aimed at protecting children from an outbreak of urban drug dealing as the crack epidemic hit its peak.
Because the drug-free zones are so predominant in high-density cities like Hartford and New Haven, the higher minority populations in those cities face stiffer penalties, says the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute. Sprawling suburban towns with higher white populations are not nearly so saturated with the zones. The measure set for a public hearing today would reduce the reach of drug-free zones, from within 1,500 feet of a public school to within 200 feet. State Rep. Michael Lawlor, judiciary committee co-chairman, said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see different penalties for those caught dealing drugs in one area compared to another, but that’s what’s resulted with these zones.”