I need your help. I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 16 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation. Any gift you can make today be matched by other donors and go twice as far.

Thank you.
—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

Smart on Crime, letter to the editor

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
Northampton

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