New Report Shows Failure of Connecticut’s Sentencing Enhancement Zones

New report analyzes Connecticut's failed sentencing enhancement zones, reveals law doesn’t work, can’t work, and creates urban penalty.

April 3, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 3, 2014

Aleks Kajstura, , 413-527-0845

Easthampton, Mass. — The Prison Policy Initiative released a report, “Reaching too far: How Connecticut’s large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark”, that analyzes Connecticut’s failed 1,500-foot sentencing enhancement zones. Connecticut’s law, meant to protect children from drug activity, requires an additional sentence for certain drug offenses committed within 1,500 feet of schools, day care centers, and public housing projects. The resulting sentencing enhancement zones are some of the largest in the country.

“The law’s sheer expanse means it fails to actually set apart any meaningfully protected areas and it arbitrarily increases penalties for urban residents,” explains Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director at the Prison Policy Initiative, and the report’s author.

The report mapped eight of the zones in the state’s cities and towns and demonstrates that the law doesn’t work, and in fact cannot possibly work as written. In addition to failing to achieve its goal of creating protected spaces, the report found, the law creates an “urban penalty” that increases the sentence imposed for a given offense simply because it was committed in a city rather than in a town. For example, 92% of the City of Bridgeport residents live in a sentencing enhancement zone while only 8% of the Town of Bridgewater’s residents do.

The report recommends the sentencing enhancement zones be shrunk to 100 feet. This would allow the law to actually create the specially protected places as intended. Connecticut Senate Bill 259, which just passed out of the Judiciary Committee, takes a similar approach and would decrease that size to 200 feet. At these shorter distances the zones would come much closer to the law’s original intent of protecting children, and significantly reduce the urban penalty effect.

The report “Reaching too far: How Connecticut’s large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark” is available at

About the Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative is a national, non-profit, non-partisan research and policy organization, with a focus on how geography impacts criminal justice policy.

About the Author
Aleks Kajstura is the Legal Director at the Prison Policy Initiative. Among other publications, she co-authored two reports on sentencing enhancement zones in Massachusetts: The Geography of Punishment: How Huge Sentencing Enhancement Zones Harm Communities, Fail to Protect Children (2008), and Reaching too far, coming up short: How large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark (2009). These reports helped lead Massachusetts to roll back their enhancement zone law in August 2012.

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