Tripp Laino, 202-999-4273
FAMM Praises Introduction of Drug-Free School Zone Reform Legislation in Tennessee
NASHVILLE – FAMM applauds the introduction of a new bill (HB 2517 and SB 2734) that would reform the state’s overly broad drug-free school zone law, which is one of the harshest in the nation. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. Michael G. Curcio (R-Dickson) co-authored the bill.
“It’s exciting that Tennessee is taking the right step in reforming its school zone laws,” said Molly Gill, FAMM’s vice president of policy. “The law was made with the best intentions, but it has failed in the real world — too many people who had no interaction with kids whatsoever have received outrageous 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 doesn’t make children any safer.”
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. It would also grant courts discretion to waive the school zone sentence enhancement happened in a private residence, in a vehicle that is stopped by police in a school zone, or within a school zone when no children are present.
Under current law, zones cover huge swaths of cities, and the law is routinely misapplied. The bill’s reforms will tailor the zones and is a good 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.
Since 2018, FAMM advocated for drug-free school zone reform in Tennessee. 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.
If the bill is passed, Tennessee will join Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, and North Dakota, which have already reformed their drug-free school zone laws.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.