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Lawmakers Considering Changes to Drug Free Zones

February 9th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

There are 23 hundred inmates in Florida prisons for selling drugs in a drug free zone. It costs Florida tax more than $46 million. The zones create enhanced penalties and in some cases mandatory sentences.


“And frankly most people don’t know about these enhanced penalties,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

In 1987 when Florida first created drug free zones it only applied to schools. Since then 7 new designations have been added, including churches, parks and even convenience stores.”


“Whether you’re a foot away from a zone could be the difference between 15 or 30 years in prison,” said Sen. Brandes.

The added zones have made some urban areas, where the population is disproportionately black, almost entirely drug free zones.

The result is eight out of ten prisoners convicted with enhanced penalties are black.

Lawmakers are considering changing the zones to cut prison costs and make the laws more fair.

“We want something that’s actually is going to have an effect,” said Sen. Brandes. “Not just focus on punishment, but would actually focus on reducing crime. I don’t know that the current situation actually does anything to reduce crime.”

Other lawmakers believe the enhanced penalties do in fact deter criminals.


“I remember the gentlemen who robbed a store with a bow and arrow and was arrested, was caught and said he was desperate, but not stupid not to use a firearm because he knew the law would put him away for a long time,” said State Senator Aaron Bean.

Some potential fixes include reducing the size of the zones, removing the designation from some places and narrowing the crimes that qualify for enhanced penalties in the zones.


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