Smart on Crime, letter to the editor

Letter to the editor of the Boston Herald in response to “Going soft on crime,” published Jan. 28 2011.

by Peter Wagner, February 4, 2011

Letter to the editor published in the Boston Herald on February 4, 2011.

Your editorial on the governor’s sentencing bill (“Going soft on crime,” Jan. 28) notes that when it comes to the school zone law, “in a city like Boston it’s pretty hard not to be within 1,000 feet on a school.” As a researcher who has studied the state’s school zone law, I agree. And that’s the problem.

The 1,000 foot distance is itself a flaw. That distance— greater than the length of three football fields— has created school zones so large that few people know the boundaries. Which means that the zones don’t drive drug activity away from children, as intended.

The governor’s bill would reduce school zones to 100 feet of a school or its property, which is the same size as the drug-free zones drawn around parks and playgrounds. A tightly drawn drug-free zone has a greater deterrent effect. His bill also keeps the mandatory minimum stench for school zone offenses and retains two other vital laws that requite mandatory sentences for selling drugs to minors or using them in drug transactions. The governor’s proposal is not soft on crime. It’s smart.

Peter Wagner,
Executive Director
Prison Policy Initiative

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