Nashville case highlights drug-free school zone reform efforts
On Nov. 9, a group of conservative and libertarian think tanks and advocacy groups — including FreedomWorks, The Reason Foundation, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, The R Street Institute, and Right On Crime — wrote Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in support of reforming the Volunteer State’s law, saying in part:
[T]he size of these zones has effectively swallowed entire neighborhoods and districts across the state, which makes it difficult for individuals to realize they are in a protected zone. Roughly 27% of all cities and towns in Tennessee are covered by drug free school zones. Some cities, for instance Knoxville and Memphis, are nearly 40% covered. This fact removes any possible deterrent effect the enhanced penalty might have otherwise provided.
While enacted with the intention of keeping children safe from illegal drug activity, Tennessee’s school zone law has ensnared many individuals who fall outside of the scope and purpose of the law. The collateral consequence has been passed on to taxpayers without any public safety returns. Common sense reforms to the school zone law, such as shrinking the size of the zone and allowing more discretion in sentencing determinations, will not only save millions in taxpayer money, it will improve public safety by allowing valuable resources to be focused on those offenders for whom the zones were the intended target.