Reforming drug-free zone law was the right thing to do | Opinion

Reforming drug-free zone law was the right thing to do | Opinion

We all agree that selling drugs to kids or near kids is a terrible act and should be punished harshly. However, Tennessee’s well-intentioned Drug-Free Zone law has ruined lives without doing a thing to keep drugs out of the hands of children. It was simply too broad and left no room for discretion. For example, Calvin Bryant was sentenced to 17 years in prison as a first-time offender because his crime was committed in his home at the Edgehill Housing Project in Nashville — which happened to be in a drug-free zone. No children were present, and no drugs were sold to any children. Normally, he could have received three years or less in prison. Instead, he got 17. Another example is Michael Goodrum. He was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute in a drug-free zone, while in fact, he was in a private residence, which overlapped with the zone. As Reason magazine noted, “Goodrum was not peddling dope to kids on a playground. He wasn't on school property, and school wasn't in session. In fact, he wasn't within sight of a school.” Nevertheless, he was sentenced to 15 years without parole. Others who committed the same crimes, perhaps only a few feet outside a zone, did not face these severe, disproportionate punishments. Due to the mandatory minimum sentences required by the law, Bryant and Goodrum were behind bars longer than individuals who intentionally committed much more heinous crimes. Thankfully, now the law that led to these disgraceful ...
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