Vol. XXXIV No. 2

A “Dubious Distinction”: New Jersey’s Drug-Free School Zones & Disparately Impacted Minority Communities

Abstract: Richard Nixon fundamentally changed the prison system in America when he launched the “War on Drugs” in 1969, leading to a series of federal laws imposing harsh mandatory sentences on drug offenders. In an attempt to shield children from drugs, New Jersey followed other states in passing a “drug-free school zone” statute. The statute imposed harsh mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenders arrested within 1,000 feet of schools, regardless of whether children were involved. This law has had a disparate impact on minorities in New Jersey, who disproportionately populate urban communities that happen to be located within all-encompassing drug-free school zones. This Note analyzes the effect of the statutes passed during the War on Drugs, and argues that New Jersey must modify its drug-free school zone statute to create smaller zones, require a nexus to the school, and focus on drug dealers most likely to target children.

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