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Bill That Would Create "Drug-Free Zones" is Flawed, Four Students Write in Indianapolis Star

February 11, 2007

Indiana Statehouse Summer.jpgFebruary 11, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - "The Indiana Senate is currently considering a bill that would make dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a church a Class A felony," write Keelin Kelly, Curtis Moore, Rebecca Murphy and Megan Tucker-Hall in the Indianapolis Star. The four first-year students at DePauw University traveled to the Indiana Statehouse January 16 to testify in opposition to the bill before a Senate committee. "Although the bill passed by a one-vote margin, we believe it should be rejected by the Senate," they write.

The students, who took a "Prisons and Public Policy" class over Winter Term, state, "Although the bill appears to treat everyone in Indiana equally, in practice it would have far greater impact on urban areas than on suburban and rural areas... In rural areas, the bill does what it is intended to do. Current drug-free zones keep drug dealers away from schools, parks, and housing developments because they affect only those areas and not the vast majority of the county. However, in Marion County and other urban areas, schools, Winter Term 2007 Statehouse.jpgparks, youth programs and especially churches exist in such high density that the law would create vast overlapping zones that encompass entire neighborhoods and communities. It would also create the anomalous situation where people possessing drugs in their private residence would be subject to the penalties of a Class A felony simply because they are three city blocks from a church."

The freshmen continue, "Because inner cities are disproportionately inhabited by blacks and Hispanics, the bill would also have much greater effect on racial minorities." They note, "Contrary to popular belief, white Americans have the same rate of illicit drug use as black and Hispanic Americans."

In conclusion, the undergraduates declare, "Indiana needs to take a comprehensive look at the effects of existing drug-free zones before establishing new ones. The original intent of drug-free zones was to deter drug dealing near schools and our youth. Over the years, the legislature has created so many additional overlapping drug-free zones that the law no longer protects our schools and youth, thus deviating from the law's original purpose. Examining studies other states have completed and compiling information about Indiana will help us remedy this problem. The goal of this legislation should be to administer justice to drug offenders without regard to geographical location or ethnic background."

Read the complete column by clicking here.

A total of 12 students from the Winter Term class -- which was taught by Kelsey Kauffman, part-time assistant professor of University studies at DePauw -- testified on legislation before Indiana lawmakers. Learn more in this previous story.

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