Holder-Winfield Takes On The “Zone”

New Haven state Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield got a hearing Wednesday for his proposal to shrink “Drug-Free School Zones” so they don’t effectively cover entire cities.

Right now under state law the school drug-free zones are designated within 1,500 feet of schools and day-care centers; dealers receive greater prison sentences for selling drugs within those area. Holder-Winfield wants that radius shortened to 250 feet. Holder-Winfield said the zones currently cover 94 percent Hartford’s population, 93 percent of New Haven’s, and 92 percent of Bridgeport’s.

Critics say his bill, which had a hearing before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, weakens law enforcement against drug crimes. (Read back and forth on the issue in this story.) Holder-Winfield argues it does the opposite—because if you consider an entire city a drug-free zone with extra penalties, then you’ve lost the lure to keep dealers from proximity to schools.

“In order for the law to work there must be a variance in punishment; it is what effects deterrence. What I seek to do with this bill makes that possible and ensures our young people are safe,” Holder-Winfield said in a statement released just before the committee hearing on his bill.

He also argued that the current law ends up locking up more blacks and Latinos for similar crimes because they live disproportionately in cities. Click on the play arrow to watch him make the case in a video press release his staff released.

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posted by: connecticutcontrarian on March 13, 2014  8:13am

Interesting.  Never considered it in this way. Curious to hear how law enforcement feels about the proposal

posted by: robn on March 13, 2014  8:38am

GHW’s argument is that the 1500 ft rule eliminates variation in punishment because it covers 93% of New Haven, but this premise is untrue. There IS variation in punishment. If dealers want to reduce their risk, they can stop dealing or move to the suburbs. Who is Gary working for anyway?

If society refuses to accept drug dealing within 1500 feet of a school and if that increases penalties for drug dealing in 93% of New Haven, I’m all for it.

posted by: robn on March 13, 2014  8:39am

PS Gary’s bill isn’t sympathetic to city dwelling Blacks and Latinos, its sympathetic to drug dealers.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 13, 2014  10:07am

I have agree with robn on this one….the only people that benefit from this are drug dealers. And yes I understand that may are black or Latino. But what about the black and latino community’s trying to fight the dealing in their community’s? (which is 95% are NOT dealers) this is a tool and your bill makes it harder for community’s to fight.

posted by: Mike Slattery on March 13, 2014  11:47am

If the zones change, can the penalties be made even more severe for dealing within a zone?  I guess there would be one fewer barrier to increasing severity across the state.

posted by: FOYI on March 13, 2014  12:12pm

How come Garry did not push this during the election?

[Editor’s Note: See this story: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/moms_painful_death_shifts_a_candidates_stance/ ]

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 13, 2014  9:53pm

For years, I have wanted to see the Venn Diagram for Drug Free School Zones.  At 1500 feet, I am sure there are certain ‘hot spots’ in New Haven where there is overlap—does that mean double penalties???

250 feet seems reasonable for the intent of the law , which is to discourage drug dealers from targeting children.

But let’s face it, proximity and intent are two entirely different things. all this does is make the slope less slippery…...

posted by: William Kurtz on March 17, 2014  7:58am

First he wants to let pedophiles into the little girls’ room; now he wants drug dealers in the classroom. The only real question: how is this aligned with the Common Core? It does have the makings of a great math word problem. (“Bob is a drug dealer with 15 grams of cocaine, and wants to sell it 500 feet from a school which will increase his potential jail sentence by five years . . .”)

Will Gary Holder-Winfield’s madness never end?