Contact: Rabiah Burks
FAMM Hails Introduction of Drug-Free School Zone Reform Legislation in Tennessee
Nashville – FAMM today applauded the introduction of a bill (HB 2111 and SB 2062) that limits the scope of Tennessee’s overly broad drug-free school zones. Tennessee Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and Rep. Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) authored the bill.
“Tennessee’s drug-free school zone law is a great example of good intentions producing bad results,” said Molly Gill, FAMM’s vice president of policy. “The law was designed to protect children from drugs and drug trafficking. Too many nonviolent drug offenders who had no interaction with kids whatsoever get outrageous, expensive mandatory sentences simply because they were within 1,000 feet of a school or other protected location. It’s unjust and a waste of taxpayer money, and children aren’t safer for it.”
The bill would reduce the size of zones from 1,000 feet to 500 feet and cut off zones at any federal or state highway. Under current law, zones covers huge swaths of cities, and the law is routinely misapplied. The bill’s modest reforms will tailor the zones and is a good first step toward reducing the number of unjustifiable sentences that are served under this law. While the bill will not be applied retroactively, FAMM remains dedicated to finding relief for those who have already been unfairly punished under this law.
Stories like those of Calvin Bryant, Terrance Davis, and Sara Moore illustrate how the school zone law can dramatically increase sentences for drug offenses that are not in close proximity to schools and involve only adults.
For the past year, FAMM has advocated for drug-free school zone reform in Tennessee. The group was joined by Right on Crime, the Reason Foundation, the R Street Institute, and FreedomWorks in a letter calling on Gov. Bill Haslam to support drug-free school zone reform during the 2018 session, his final legislative session as governor.
In addition to school zone reform, the bill also creates two new legal entities: alternative sentencing coordinators and the Public Defender Appellate Division. The alternative sentencing coordinators will be a part of the district attorney’s office in 18 jurisdictions and will assist in maintaining, utilizing, and promoting Tennessee’s alternative sentences for drug offenders. The Public Defender Appellate Division will provide legal assistance to indigent defendants who are appealing directly to Tennessee’s criminal court system.
“States across the country, including North Dakota, Indiana, and Utah, have reformed their drug-free school zone laws without seeing a new crime wave. If lawmakers want a win for public safety, common sense, and taxpayers, this bill should be their top priority,” said Gill.
If the bill is passed, Tennessee will join Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, and North Dakota, which have already reformed their drug-free school zone laws.
FAMM is a nonpartisan, national advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice reforms to make our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM promotes change by raising the voices of families and individuals who are directly affected by counterproductive sentencing and prison policies.
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