Brief cites PPI’s research on “sentencing enhancement zones” in Mass.

While the harmful older zone law has been scaled back, questions still remain in the courts.

by Leah Sakala, September 24, 2013

Massachusetts has just passed the one-year anniversary of scaling back harmful and ineffective 1,000-foot “sentencing enhancement zones.” As our research found, the old zones were too big to meet the indended goal of deterring drug activity from particular areas. We also found that the old policy led to alarming racial disparities, so we were certainly glad when the legislature reduced the size of the zones to 300 feet.

But, as our friends at Families Against Mandatory Minumums (FAMM) can tell you, a lingering question remains in the courts: should the old rules or the new rules apply to the people who committed offenses before the law was changed, but who were sentenced after the change?

Advocates at FAMM are urging the court to apply the more reasonable 300-foot zone policy to all cases that were pending when the law was changed. We completely agree, and are thrilled that our two reports were cited throughout FAMM’s friend-of-the-court brief.

The case, Commonwealth v. Pagan, will be argued in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday, October 7, and the public is welcome to attend. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there, too!

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