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Examining the Impact of Drug-Free Zones

This website was created by students at DePauw University enrolled in Professor Kelsey Kauffman's 2007 and 2008 courses on prisons.   We studied Indiana's “drug-free zone” law as an example of legislation that produces racial disparities in prisons, albeit unintentionally.  The project was later expanded to include very similar "sex offender exclusion zones."

We examined the origins and rationales behind Indiana’s drug zone law; researched convictions under the law; and created maps that show the types of communities where the law has its greatest impact. We have concluded that the current drug free zone law is too broad and needs to be refined.

We created this site to document our work and, hopefully, raise questions among lawmakers as to whether the current drug-zone laws are serving their purpose without creating unintended racial disparities.

Exploring our site

In the section labeled DFZ Laws, we discuss the mission and history of drug-free zone legislation in the United States, provide details of the current law in Indiana, and briefly review various legal challenges to the law in Indiana.

Testimony provides the text of testimony we presented before the Indiana Sentencing Policy Study Committee on Oct. 8, 2008 regarding drug free zones and sex offender exclusion zones, including our recommendations about how the Indiana General Assembly might refine those zones.

Our Maps section focuses on Marion County, home to Indianapolis, the capitol and largest city in the state. Marion County generates approximately one-fourth of all convictions under Indiana’s drug-zone law and provides clear demonstration of the disparate impact the law has on communities according to race and population density.  We created our own maps, thus allowing us to model zones of varying sizes around various designated and proposed “drug-free” sites (schools, parks, housing developments, and churches). To help policy makers visualize possible changes to the law, we provide a grid of maps showing what would happen if some or all of the zones were reduced in size.

The section on Articles contains an op-ed piece that four of the students published in the Indianapolis Star in February 2007 regarding proposed changes to Indiana's drug free zone law.

Links takes you to various reports on drug free zones.

Acknowledgements identifies students and faculty involved in the project and thanks those who have assisted us.